If I stop drinking alcohol today, how long will it take to notice the benefits?

Two-thirds of British regular drinkers consider alcohol consumption a more difficult habit to quit than starting to exercise or improve their diet, according to a survey of 9,000 English adults, but this idea may change when they know the benefits of reducing consumption or stop drinking. And that is what the British authorities want.

The idea has taken shape in a campaign that invites you to spend a day without drinking a drop – the British national health system even offers an app to help progress -, among whose benefits are improving sleep quality, helping to regulate weight and reduce the risk of hypertension (more than 4 million Spaniards are hypertensive and do not know it) and cancer. In addition, the days without alcohol give a welcome respite to the liver, the organ that metabolizes this substance. The initiative is aimed especially at people between the ages of 45 and 65, the population group that often exceeds the limits compatible with a healthy life, according to statistics.

The relationship of the Spanish with alcohol differs substantially from that of the English, but our culture also has a great tolerance for this drug. From the way we use language to imply that drinking is important to gain social acceptance, to the habit of mixing rounds of beer with children’s plans in bars, there is a whole plethora of customs that have become obsolete and we should review. Yes, in Spain it is also worth reflecting on alcohol consumption and trying to reduce it.

A month to notice the first effects

Saying that you have to leave alcohol forever is very different than encouraging to try a month without beer, recognizes Francisco Camarelles, of the Program of Preventive Activities and Health Promotion of the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine. The family doctor argues that initiatives such as the campaign that invites people to spend whole days without drinking help to position people against their alcohol consumption. “Dependence on alcohol is behind three of every thousand patients in consultations of family doctors, but they represent the tip of the iceberg. Underneath there is a 20% of people who may have hazardous drinking. People repositions when informs them of the risks associated with specific amounts and becomes aware, “ says Camarelles.

Of course, it takes some time to begin to notice the effects of the decision. The first large study that provides results on the cessation of alcohol consumption in the short term does not speak of benefits in the first seven days. Nor in the first fifteen. Actually, the body begins to appreciate that one leaves the beers and glasses of wine after a month.

This is what researchers at University College London say in research published in The British Medical Journal. His work indicates that abstinence in people who habitually drink moderately and heavily – more than double the recommended limit, that is, who exceed three bottles of wine or more than 14 pints of beer per week – has a positive impact on your cholesterol, body weight, and blood pressure. In addition, it reduces the concentration of factors that stimulate cancer growth, as well as the risk of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and fatty liver appearing .

Don’t count the days to have another drink

Assuming the challenge of putting alcohol at bay in our lives, the road is not easy. The habit of having a beer when leaving work or a glass of wine with meals makes it very difficult not to get carried away. To stop seeing alcohol as a social activity or compensation for a hard day at work, the addiction specialist clinical psychologist Bernardo Ruiz also advises raising awareness of the benefit. “In no case do you have to count the days to be able to have another drink again. The worst thing is to propose the initiative as a self-imposed punishment, because with it the desire to return to the previous life and consume as before is fueled . 

This expert, who treats the cases of people with alcohol abuse problems, observes important changes in his patients from two weeks on. “We do an intensive therapy of ten days, with residential treatment, and the effects of not consuming any alcohol in fifteen days are seen even in the physical aspect. The weight is regularized -increases or decreases, depending on the case-, the skin is brighter, healthy sleep and rest patterns recover , they get up with more energy, and attitude, mood and speech improve, “Ruiz says.

According to him, the option of drinking less may have a smaller reach in these people than the action of turning off the tap to zero. “In cases of addiction, drinking less is infinitely more difficult than quitting because consumption is beyond voluntary control. Radical changes are necessary to cut the desire to continue drinking,” he recalls. This means that among those who suffer from anxiety or depression and turn to alcohol as a relief to the problem, and among those who associate consumption with fun, days without alcohol do not solve the problem. In these cases it is a strategy that can promote self-deception.

HEALTHY ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION DOES NOT EXIST

In 2016, alcohol represented the main risk factor for premature death and disability for people between 15 and 49 years of age, and its consumption is related to 10% of deaths that affect that population group, according to the warning.the most detailed statistic on the causes of disease and death in the world, published in the prestigious magazine The Lancet , in September 2018. The researchers concluded the devastating conclusion that no level of alcohol consumption can be considered healthy , after analyzing its impact in 195 countries. The scientists noted that the combined risks of developing cancer and other diseases outweigh the potential benefits of heart disease and recognized that while the risks associated with alcohol when consuming one unit a day are very low, they increase rapidly when you drink more.

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