Reducing your alcohol intake can benefit your health and livelihood in countless ways. Increased energy levels, a better mood, and a reduced risk of alcohol-induced health problems are some of the many benefits associated with cutting out or cutting back on alcohol.
The Department of Health and Human Services says if you do drink, you should stick to a moderate amount of up to one drink a day if you’re a woman and up to two drinks a day if you’re a man. It also mentions that if you don’t drink alcohol, there’s no reason to start.
If you feel that you may be drinking too much alcohol, here are seven great reasons to cut back on your intake or cut alcohol out completely.
1. Improve Your Mood
Alcohol interferes with a wide range of brain neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These transmitters play a major role in mood and mental health. This is why many people become emotional, agitated, or irritable during or after a night of heavy drinking. However, drinking heavily on a regular basis can cause long-term changes in the brain that increase the risk of mental illness.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that major depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders are among the top psychiatric disorders commonly associated with alcohol addiction.
Cutting back on alcohol can improve your mood on a day-to-day basis and reduce your risk of developing a mental illness. If you are already managing a mental illness, your symptoms may gradually improve if you stop drinking alcohol. Many alcohol rehab centers offer dual diagnosis therapy to those who need help recovering from both alcohol use disorder and a mental illness.
2. Sleep Better
Alcohol can often make you feel drowsy and relaxed to help you fall asleep more quickly. However, any level of alcohol use contributes to poor-quality sleep because of the way it interferes with your sleep stages — particularly the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, alcohol disturbs REM sleep to cause sleep disturbances including vivid dreams, nightmares, sleepwalking, and night terrors, and may even worsen symptoms of PTSD. Alcohol also interferes with sleep in ways that can worsen obstructive sleep apnea and can cause daytime problems including tiredness, anxiety, irritability, and poor memory and concentration.
Alcohol can cause night sweats and interfere with the production of hormones secreted at night such as melatonin, growth hormone, and prolactin, reports the NIH. If you experience difficulty sleeping at night or typically wake up every morning feeling groggy, try cutting out the alcohol to see if it makes a difference.
3. Reduce Health Problems
Heavy alcohol use can lead to the development of many serious health problems including high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, pancreatitis, and cancer, among others. Of the more than 85,000 liver disease deaths that occurred in the U.S. in 2019, more than 43% involved alcohol, reports the NIH. Alcohol use can also weaken your immune system to make you more susceptible to illness and disease, but cutting out alcohol can help you keep your immune system strong and reduce your risk for many health problems.
4. Save Money
Alcohol can be costly, especially if you’re buying top-shelf spirits or fine wine, or keeping your refrigerator constantly stocked with beer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spent $583 on alcohol in 2018, but if you drink regularly, it’s highly possible you may have spent far more.
When you feel tempted to buy alcohol, consider putting aside the money you would have spent on alcohol into your savings account or toward something more meaningful or important. Cutting out alcohol can also save you money in the sense that you’ll never have to worry about paying court or legal fees in the event you get pulled over while drunk driving or while breaking other laws when intoxicated.
5. Avoid Hangovers
Hangovers are never fun and can put a major dent in any plans you may have had after a night of drinking. The NIH reports that hangovers can be caused by a wide range of factors including dehydration, poor sleep, increased inflammation, and gastrointestinal upset.
Some people think hangovers can be prevented by drinking certain types of alcohol in a certain order (such as hard liquor before beer) or by drinking more alcohol shortly after waking. However, these are common myths that are not scientifically proven to prevent hangovers.
The best way to avoid a hangover is to drink a minimal amount of alcohol or none at all. If you’re sick of feeling hungover all the time due to drinking alcohol, imagine how great you’ll feel all the time if only you stopped drinking.
6. Look Younger
Heavy alcohol use can make you look older because of the way it contributes to dehydration, loss of nutrients, and sleep deprivation. A study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology showed that women who consumed eight or more drinks per week were more likely to have deeper fine lines and wrinkles, under-eye puffiness, sagging skin, and pronounced blood vessels compared with women who drank less or not at all.
Cutting back on alcohol can help you look younger, especially when you start sleeping better and retain nutrients that are often depleted with heavy alcohol use. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water in place of alcohol can also help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and plump up the face to restore lost volume.
7. Avoid Dependence and Addiction
Over time, chronic use of alcohol can eventually lead to physical dependence and addiction. Physical dependence is characterized by the onset of withdrawal symptoms when you suddenly stop drinking. Addiction is much more complex and is defined as compulsive drug seeking and drug use despite negative consequences. When left untreated, dependence and addiction can lead to serious problems that affect your entire livelihood.
Limiting your alcohol intake or cutting it out altogether is the best thing you can do for your well-being and the best way to avoid dependence and addiction. However, if you do think you may have a drinking problem, a drug rehab center can help you take back your life and achieve long-term recovery with alcohol detox and behavioral therapy.
Don’t hesitate to get help right away if you need help fighting addiction. Look for an addiction treatment center like Baystate Recovery Center that offers counseling and behavioral therapy — all of which are proven, evidence-based treatments for alcohol use disorders.
Baystate Recovery Center, a clinically Infused 12-Step Treatment Center for Drug and Alcohol Addiction, was founded by two partners in addiction treatment services, John Checchi and Michael Wilson.