By Kara Hill

In 2018 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that 14.4 million adults suffered from Alcohol Use Disorder. Alcohol abuse or excessive use is linked to a myriad of illnesses, death and socio-economical consequences. The World Health Organization reported that alcohol contributed to more than 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions, most notable weight gain, liver cirrhosis, cancer, suicide and violence. Excessive drinking has also been linked to domestic violence and job loss. While there are benefits of drinking in moderation (one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men), it is not without risk. Moderate drinking is linked to a reduction of the risk of developing heart disease and ischemic stroke; however, drinking too much has the opposite effect and can lead to an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer. If you’re considering taking a hiatus from alcohol, below are five benefits of jumping on the wagon.

  1. Increased energy: Alcohol is a known toxin that requires the body to go into overtime to metabolize and process it. When this happens, the heart and lungs pump at irregular speeds and the brain continually tries to calibrate itself. This reaction to alcohol results in a depleted energy source and a groggy, sleepy feeling. Cutting alcohol from your diet allows your body to utilize this energy source for other things.
  2. Mental health: Reducing alcohol consumption increases mental health by reducing “moral hangover,” which is known as the shame, guilt or remorse that follows poor choices from the night before. Over time this repetitive behavior can have a negative effect on one’s self-image, morals and overall mental health. Eliminating alcohol from your lifestyle also eliminates the opportunity for alcohol-fueled behavior to occur.

  3. Looking younger: Since alcohol is a diuretic, it can dehydrate the skin and reduce its elasticity by depleting collagen levels. Excessive alcohol use is also known to reduce the lifespan of the cells in the heart, liver and skin. This is directly linked to an increase in wrinkles, sagging skin, inflammation, redness and dark bags under the eyes. Replacing alcohol with water is a surefire way to rebuild collagen levels, reduce inflammation and prevent skin sagging.

  4. Saving money: On average, 4.5 million Americans buy $200 USD worth of alcohol weekly. That’s approximately $10,400 annually. Additionally, should excessive drinking result in a DUI, the price tag can be costly. In many states, the fines associated with DUI increase with each new offense and are in addition to fines charged by criminal defense attorneys. Many insurance companies raise rates after DUI charges and can remain on your records for many years. A DUI can cost anywhere from $5k to $15k.

  5. Lose weight: Alcohol consumption is linked to an increase in weight gain. Alcohol contains almost double the caloric content of most proteins and carbs and the body processes alcohol as sugar, often storing the sugar in fat cells. Therefore, those who drink often carry more weight than those who do not. Additionally, binging on alcohol often leads to a ‘hangover,” which is generally dehydration, low blood sugar and an inflammatory response to the immune system. When blood sugar is depleted, the body naturally craves carbs—leading bingers to eat greasy, high-calorie food after a night of drinking. Reducing or eliminating alcohol from the diet helps stabilize blood sugar and hydration and reduces the urge to eat unhealthy foods.

Whether you are struggling with excessive alcoholism or want to sober up to get your health in check—taking a break from alcohol can have a lasting impact on your social, mental and physical well-being.