What happens to the body when you stop drinking

What happens to the body when you stop drinking

Belly, liver, brain, skin, morale… The effects of stopping alcohol consumption are very real. After how long of weaning? List and decryption with Dr. Dan Véléa, addiction psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Paris.

The risks related to the consumption ofalcohol for health throughout life increase with the amount consumed. The more you drink, the stronger the addiction becomes. The effects of addiction are visible during consumption but also when you stop drinking. What happens in the body when do you quit alcohol? In the brain ? On the weight? The belly ? Liver ? From when do you see the first effects ? Answers with Dr. Dan Véléa, addiction psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Paris.

“Once people stop drinking, there are organizational changes”exasks Dr. Dan Véléa, addiction psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Paris. They appear more or less quickly: “It depends of peoplecontinues our interlocutor. You still need a good weaning period before the person sees them, you also need a drastic period of reduction or even total abstinence so that the skin can regain a beautiful appearance without redness, for example..” The weightloss neither is done all at once, but is visible and can be accelerated “with a bit of sport, with support and relaxation sessions.” In all cases “It’s not a situation where you stop drinking alcohol and the next day you’re great.” warns the addictologist.

Quitting drinking alcohol is a long-term work“, warns the addictologist. “There can be moments of euphoria and happiness when you stop drinking, but there can also be times when there is a relapse.” During weaning, a lack can be felt. “When you stop drinking alcohol, there is less stimulation at the level of the brain. There is less dopamine and serotonin, two molecules released as pleasure molecules in alcohol addiction.” This drop in dopamine and serotonin explains why “some withdrawal patients will feel depressed or needy.” To overcome this lack, the doctor advises to turn to other practices to compensatesuch as sport or work.

“The first benefit the patient notices is weight loss.”

Alcohol consumption is the leading cause of cirrhosis of the liver in France and in Europe, indicates theAFEF (French Association for the study of the liver) which recommends not to drink alcohol every day and to limit yourself to 3 glasses when the opportunity arises. Around 12,000 people die each year from cirrhosis liver in France including half due to excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol can also aggravate other liver diseases such as Hepatitis C. To see if your liver is affected, a blood test may be prescribed. If necessary, a liver ultrasound can also be performed.

→ If you do not have cirrhosis and if you stop drinking alcohol, the liver can regenerate more or less depending on the case. “When cirrhosis is present, the liver cannot regenerate as easily as without cirrhosis. no other restrictions. Sometimes liver function is very bad and does not improve despite stopping alcohol consumption and the question of transplantation may arise” explains the AFEF.

“Alcohol contains lots of calories and of lipids, therefore automatically, a person who stops drinking will see their body fat decrease”, says Dr Velea. “This is the first benefit that the patient who stops drinking alcohol will notice.” In addition, drugs used in the context of withdrawal (called “anti-cravings”: in French, “craving” means “compulsive cravings”)”are drugs that play a role in compulsive eating”. This means that there is a reduction in the desire to drink but also a reduction in the desire to eat.

When alcohol is stopped, the stomach is less swollen. “One swollen belly is typical of beer drinkers for example, they are very thin people with big bellies because of alcohol, its dehydrating action on the body and the lack of water” argues the specialist. The lack of water caused by alcohol consumption causes the body to retain water, which causes swelling.

Public Health France recommends not to consume:

  • more than 10 standard drinks per week,
  • and no more than 2 standard drinks per day,
  • while having days in the week without alcohol consumption.

“A person who quits drinking regain energy“, observes Dr Véléa. “When we stop excessive practice, there is a recovery from fatigue, we recover from sleep.” Why ?

→ The number of calories consumed is reduced by stopping alcohol. The body is less tired.

→ The patient sleeps more. If the person used to drink at night “everything was out of order, disturbed, which could cause a lack of sleep and nocturnal awakenings.”

“In the withdrawal phase, the proper use of drugs is conditioned by a massive hydration with non-alcoholic beverages such as water or juice” explains the addiction doctor. “It can go from 2 to 3 liters a day during weaning and thereafter you have to maintain good hydration.”

“Narcissistically speaking there is a reconstruction that is taking place and which is fundamental and beneficial”

“People who are dependent on alcohol often have visible signs on their skin such as redness called rosacea. It is a typical phenomenon of vasodilatation caused by alcohol” says Dr. Véléa. Alcohol dilates the walls of blood vessels, creating a vascular fragility and causes the signs of rosacea. When the person stops drinking alcohol, his skin will regenerate, the redness will gradually disappear, his hydration will be better. “It takes a drastic period of reduction or even total abstinence so that the skin can regain a beautiful appearance without redness for example” all the same specifies our interlocutor without forgetting to “complete using creams recommended by dermatologists and being careful not to expose yourself too much to the sun because the skin is weakened”.

To note : “While this type of redness can be a sign of alcohol addiction, it can also be due to something other than alcohol.”

The tremors can be caused by withdrawal during alcohol withdrawal. “If it was not an alcoholism pushed to the extreme, the tremors and dizziness disappear little by little” observes the addictologist. “When you stop drinking, it shows in your gait, in your attitude and the person regains control of their body“Self-confidence returns, self-image becomes better… “Narcissistically speaking there is a reconstruction that is taking place which is fundamental and beneficial.”

Thanks to Dr Dan Véléa, addiction psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Paris. Interviewed in December 2020. Source: Alcohol, AFEF, French Association for the Study of the Liver.