Rehab 4 Addiction

Whether you only drink occasionally, or you are a heavy drinker, giving up alcohol for a month can do your mind, body and wallet a world of good.

A month without drinking gives your body time to recover. It allows organs such as the liver to begin repairing themselves, thereby reducing the risk of liver disease. It helps with weight loss, the immune system, brain power and more.

And that’s just a few of the health benefits: there are plenty of other benefits. Did you know that giving up alcohol for a month can help you to drink more moderately for the rest of the year? Or that you can save £60-70 (minimum) just by cutting out alcohol for four weeks?

Find out more about the advantages of giving up alcohol for a month below.

What physical health benefits are there to giving up alcohol for a month?

Despite being legal in the majority of countries, alcohol is incredibly damaging to the body.

Over time, it increases the risk of several different cancers. It is also one of the chief contributors to liver disease.

A lot of the damage done by alcohol consumption is chronic, which is to say that it increases gradually over time. When you stop drinking for a month, you stop adding to this chronic damage, and you may even begin to reverse it.

In this section we go through eight physical health benefits of giving up alcohol for a month, and explain how they occur.

  • Better skin
  • Improved immune system
  • Liver relief
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower risk of cancer
  • Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
  • More brain power
  • Weight loss

How will giving up alcohol improve my skin?

Alcohol is known to have a dehydrating effect. This is one of the reasons why people get hangovers; it also causes those who drink a lot to have dull skin.

When you stop drinking, your body is more hydrated. This translates into brighter, better-looking skin.

Cutting out alcohol can have other benefits for your appearance, too. It can help you to lose weight, and prevent your eyes from looking bloodshot. It can even make you smell better.

How will my immune system benefit from cutting out alcohol?

Alcohol suppresses the immune system, which can make people with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) more susceptible to illness.

As soon as you stop drinking, your immune system will start to return to full capacity. This will make you less likely to pick up a cold or flu.

What advantages are there for my liver if I stop drinking alcohol for a month?

The benefits to the liver that come from a month without drinking are one of the biggest reasons to take a month off.

Rates of liver disease have skyrocketed in the last 50 years. In the UK, deaths from liver disease have gone up by 400% since 1970. Not only that, but liver disease is now the biggest cause of death among 35-49 year-olds. [1]

Given these shocking statistics, it is clear that people in the UK need to be more mindful of the damage they are doing to their livers.

Taking a month off alcohol can lead to a significant improvement in the state of the liver. The liver is a regenerative organ: if you give it time, it can heal (provided the damage is not too great).

Indeed, one study found that just four weeks without drinking led to an improvement in liver stiffness. [2]

How does stopping drinking for a month help to lower blood pressure?

Alcohol is known to increase blood pressure. It does so by stimulating the release of vasoconstrictors such as endothelin 1 and 2 and angiotensin II. Vasoconstrictors make blood vessels narrower, which increases blood pressure. [3]

When you stop drinking, these vasoconstrictors are not released in the same quantities, meaning that your blood vessels remain at the same width and your blood pressure goes back to its normal level.

How does quitting alcohol for a month reduce my risk of getting cancer?

Alcohol has been linked to liver, brain, head, neck, colorectal, oesophageal and breast cancers.

Whilst long-term abstinence is the best way to reduce your risk of contracting cancer, a month without alcohol will certainly help, especially if it encourages you to drink less for the rest of the year.

What about cardiovascular disease? How can a month without alcohol help with that?

Drinking in excess can cause bad cholesterol (LDL) to be oxidised. It then deposits on the carotid arteries, leading to blockage.

As more arteries in the heart get blocked, the chances of cardiovascular disease developing go up.

When you stop drinking for a month, it reduces the number of arteries being blocked off, thereby reducing your risk of developing CV disease.

How could a month without alcohol increase my brain power?

Binge drinking can cause memory loss. Not only that, but long-term drinkers are at risk of developing alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD), which impedes memory retention and concentration.

If you want to your brain to be firing on all cylinders, giving it a month off alcohol is the best thing you can do.

How can giving up alcohol help me to lose weight?

Alcohol is responsible for weight gain in several ways, some direct, some indirect.

The most direct way in which it leads to weight gain is through the high calorific content of alcoholic drinks. A lager, for example, contains up to 180 calories. If you drink several lagers a day, that increases your calorie intake by a significant amount.

One indirect way in which alcohol leads to weight gain is through the consumption of junk food. Scientific research shows that when we drink alcohol, the smell of food become more appealing. The reasons behind this are not fully understood, but it may be in order to encourage us to eat, therefore slowing down the rate at which our bodies are forced to absorb the alcohol we are ingesting. [4]

Whatever the reasons, people frequently eat junk food when they drink alcohol, and this leads to added calories.

Helen Foster, in her book ‘Quit Alcohol (for a month)’, says that the average person loses around 3kg when they abstain for a month. [5] This figure demonstrates the huge correlation between alcohol and unhealthy calorific intake.

Are there any other benefits to giving up alcohol for a month?

We’ve covered the physical health benefits of giving up alcohol for a month. But are there any other benefits? Could abstinence improve our mental health, make us more productive, or help us to save money?

The answer to all of these questions is ‘yes’. There are a whole host of benefits to giving up alcohol that go beyond mere improvements in our physical health.

Here’s a short list of these benefits, which we’ll go through in greater detail below.

  • Money saved
  • More productivity
  • Better mental health
  • Helps to form better habits

How can being abstinent for a month save me money?

The average drinker spends around £65 a month on alcohol, according to an estimate by the charity Macmillan Cancer Support. If you stop drinking, all of that money immediately gets saved.

And that’s just the money you spend directly on alcohol. Much of the expenditure associated with drinking comes from added costs, such as a taxi home or a kebab.

If you’d like to find out the exact amount you spend on alcohol, there’s a helpful tool at dryathlon.org. It allows you to select the exact number of drinks you consume per week, and then calculates your total spend per month.

How can a month off alcohol improve my productivity?

An enormous amount of productivity is lost every year due to alcohol consumption. The Institute of Alcohol Studies reckons the total cost per year at £1.7 billion.

That’s due to people either skipping work because they are too hungover, or going into work in a bad state.

One study by Norwich Union Healthcare found that 1 in 20 people go to work hungover once a week. [6]

There are two major culprits behind this lost productivity: hangovers and poor sleep. Studies have shown that hangovers decrease your performance by between 5 and 10 percent. [7] This is because hangovers make it more difficult to manipulate knowledge and increase the risk of making mistakes. So if you have a high-stakes job, whether you are in construction or investment banking, the cost of doing your job in a hungover state could be greater than you might think.

Poor sleep is another enemy of productivity. People often fall into a deep sleep very rapidly after drinking, skipping the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase. The REM phase is important for consolidating memory. When you lose out on this phase of sleep, it leads to poor retention of information and poor concentration. What’s more, dehydration (a common symptom of hangovers) slows down thought processes.

Can a month without drinking improve my mental health?

Although alcohol may make you feel happy in the short term, it is only a quick fix, and often leads to unhappiness further down the line.

This can be caused by hangovers, regret, and anxiety due to neglected responsibilities.

Furthermore, for those with pre-existing mental health conditions, there is evidence that alcohol makes those conditions worse. Depression and anxiety are both exacerbated by alcohol use, despite the short-term relief it seems to offer.

So yes, giving up alcohol for a month is likely to improve your mental health. It can do so in a couple of ways.

  • Taking some time off alcohol can help you to concentrate on solving your problems, rather than ‘drowning’ them.
  • It can allow you more time to focus on your hobbies.

Breaking the habit: can giving up alcohol for a month help me to drink less during the rest of the year?

Taking a month-long break from alcohol teaches you how to drink in moderation, a skill which helps you to drink less even after your month of abstinence.

This is backed up by research by the University of Sussex and Alcohol Change UK, which found that those who did Dry January or a similar scheme drank less and had fewer binges even six months after the original month of no drinking. [8]

The implications of this are important. Taking a month off drinking is not just good for you in the short-term; it can also help you to break dangerous habits of alcohol consumption and form better ones.

Final thoughts

For those who are able to drink moderately without developing an AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder), taking a month off alcohol is a great thing to do.

However, it is worth mentioning that for many, taking a month off is not enough. If your drinking has got out of control, you should consider becoming fully abstinent with the help of medical detox and therapy.

References

[1] British Liver Trust, ‘Statistics: Liver Disease Crisis’. https://britishlivertrust.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/statistics/

[2] Mehta, G., et al., 2015, ‘Short term abstinence from alcohol improves insulin resistance and fatty liver phenotype in moderate drinkers’, Hepatology 62(1), 267A

[3] Kazim Husain et al., ‘Alcohol-induced hypertension: Mechanism and prevention’. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4038773/#:~:text=Alcohol%20stimulates%20the%20release%20of,vessels%5B63%2C81%5D.

[4] Eiler WJ 2nd et al. ‘The Apéritif Effect: Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain’s Response to Food Aromas in Women’, Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Jul; 23(7): 1386–93

[5] Helen Foster, Quit Alcohol (for a month), London, (Vermilion, 2017).

[6] Alcohol in the Workplace Factsheet: Institute of Alcohol Studies, 2014

[7] Verster JC et al. ‘Hangover Research Needs: Proceedings of the 5th Alcohol Hangover Research Group Meeting’, Current Drug Abuse Reviews. 2013 Sep; 6(3): 245–51.

[8] De Visser RO, Robinson E and Bond R. ‘Voluntary Temporary Abstinence From Alcohol During “Dry January” and Subsequent Alcohol Use’, Health Psychology. 2016 Mar; 35(3): 281–9.

boris

Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.