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12 Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol, Backed By Research

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Aug 30, 2023 • 20 cited sources

The benefits of an alcohol-free lifestyle are numerous: saving money, losing weight, living longer and having better mental health and cognition.

Keep reading if you’re considering a sober life but need a little push to take the plunge. And once you’re ready, you can learn how to quit drinking, whether by using an app or attending alcohol rehab.

Benefits of No Alcohol: What to Expect When You Quit Drinking

You won’t know how sobriety will change your life until you try it. But these are some of the benefits others have achieved by changing their relationship with alcohol:

1. Longer Life

Researchers say drinking just one or two drinks four or more times per week can increase your risk of premature death by 20%.[1] Notice that this is a moderate drinking level for most people. 

2. Weight Loss

Consume four bottles of wine per month, and you’ll take in calories equivalent to eating four Big Macs per month.[2] 

A standard alcoholic beverage contains at least 200 calories. If you are drinking 2 to 4 drinks, that’s somewhere between 400 and 800 calories in one sitting from alcohol alone. 

While most people on a diet would resist eating fast food weekly, many people won’t blink an eye about drinking daily. Many people attempting to lose weight don’t realize the number of calories they consume from alcohol. Cutting those calories out can make a big difference in successful weight loss. 

3. Stronger Memory & Cognition 

Chronic alcohol consumption is also associated with memory loss and decreased cognition over time.[3] Drinking heavily or long-term can increase the risk of both temporary or permanent memory loss. 

4. Reduce Your Risk of Accidents 

In research conducted across 27 different countries , up to 40% of emergency room visits for accidents and injuries involved alcohol.[4] You could have a painful and expensive injury that keeps you from work, or you could hurt someone else.

5. Improve Your Organ Health

Alcohol can cause permanent damage to over nine major systems within your body, including the following:[5]

  • Bones 
  • Brain 
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Muscles
  • Oral cavity 
  • Pancreas

Quitting drinking can help heal and repair some of these organs, especially your liver.

6. Sleep Better

Alcohol is sedating, so it can help you fall asleep faster, but researchers say alcohol-fueled sleep isn’t restful.[6] You may drift in and out of light levels of sleep, so it’s easier for you to awaken with tiny noises. And you may spend less time in the deep stages of sleep your body needs to repair tissues and grow. 

Some sleep changes persist when heavy drinkers quit. But with time, you could start sleeping soundly and awaken refreshed and ready for your day. 

7. Save Money

The average millennial drinker spends $300 per month on alcohol.[7] People with AUD may spend much more. All of the money you spend on drinking could help you take a dream vacation, put your children through school or pay off your mortgage. 

8. Reduce Your Cancer Risk

Drinking alcohol raises the risk of developing several different types of cancer, including the following:[8]

  • Mouth
  • Voice box
  • Throat
  • Esophagus 
  • Breast 
  • Liver
  • Colon
  • Rectum

The more you drink, the higher the risk of developing cancer. But researchers say even people who have no more than one drink per day have a moderately increased cancer risk.[8] That risk lowers when you’re sober. 

9. Boost Your Mood

Researchers say there’s a strong link between alcohol misuse and depression.[9] People with AUD may lean on drinks to improve their mood, but each sip makes their underlying mental health worse.

Alcohol cravings can make you feel depressed or anxious. But as your brain adjusts to sobriety and your chemical levels balance, you may feel better than you ever did while drinking. 

10. Improve Relationships

In a study of college students, more than 66% said they engaged in “regrettable social behaviors” while drinking.[10] Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, making it easier to say or do things while drunk that you’d never do while sober. 

Once you stop drinking, you won’t wake up wondering who you should apologize to for your actions the night before. You’ll be in control of your decisions. 

11. Improve Sex Life

Drinking can negatively interfere with a person’s sex life. Heavy drinking can make it difficult to get or maintain an erection, can lower sex drive and make it more difficult to achieve orgasm.[11],[12]

When you quit drinking alcohol, you may find that your sex life improves considerably. 

12. Get Sick Less Often

Drinking alcohol can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to getting sick. And heavy drinkers are more likely to get serious illnesses like tuberculosis and pneumonia than people who don’t drink. Once you stop drinking, your body will be better equipped to fight off illnesses.[5]

Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol Timeline 

Each body is different, but in general, quitting follows a predictable timeline that looks like this:

1 Week No Alcohol

People with significant alcohol misuse history may experience a difficult withdrawal period during the first week after quitting. Their doctors often use medications like benzodiazepines to help detox them safely and comfortably, and after the first week, they start to feel more like themselves. 

Drinkers without alcohol use disorder may notice that within the first week of quitting, they sleep better and awaken with newfound vigor and energy. 

And already within just one week of sobriety, your risk of cardiovascular conditions can start to decrease. Your liver will also begin the process of healing some of its damage.[13]

1 Month No Alcohol

Within one month of stopping alcohol, you may start to lose weight, or conversely, if you have been malnourished, you may begin to renourish your body and find you are gaining healthy weight again. Your sleep and mood will likely improve.

Your organs, including your liver, make great strides in healing during this first month. Your bloodwork may show signs of improvement, and your doctor may be pleased with how well you’re feeling. 

Additionally, one study revealed that within one and a half months of no alcohol, participants’ brain volume increased by about 2%.[14]

1 Year No Alcohol

One year of no alcohol will greatly improve your physical and mental health. You may notice significant improvements to your nutrition, sleep, energy and cognition. You may be able to think and focus much better than when you were drinking.

Further, your bone density will increase, reducing your risk of osteoporosis and related conditions. And your risk of many types of diseases will decrease dramatically.[15]

Should You Quit Drinking?

The following are symptoms of a potential alcohol use disorder (AUD). If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself, it might be time to reconsider your drinking habits:[16]

  • Drinking more than you intend to
  • Trying to quit and failing
  • Spending a lot of time drinking
  • Feeling obsessed with drinking 
  • Cutting back on other activities to make time for drinking
  • Getting into unsafe situations due to drinking
  • Drinking despite physical or mental health consequences
  • Drinking more to get the impact smaller doses once gave you
  • Feeling sick or unwell when you don’t drink

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. People dependent on alcohol can face life-threatening problems if they try to quit cold turkey. Your doctor can help you get sober safely with medications, such as naltrexone, and connect you to resources to help maintain long-term abstinence. 

Resources to Help You Quit

These resources can help you stop drinking:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous: Connect with other people who are also struggling with alcohol misuse. Attend meetings virtually or in person and learn how others have taken control and rebuilt their lives. You can also read literature to help you deepen your understanding of alcohol use disorder.
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Read scientific studies about AUD research and tap into information about how alcohol harms both your body and mind. Use the NIAAA treatment navigator to connect with professionals who can help. 
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Use this resource to find treatment help near you. Operators speak both English and Spanish and are available around the clock. This service is free. 

4 Key Facts About Alcohol

  • Among people 12 and older, about 5.8% are considered heavy drinkers, meaning they drink excessively five or more days per month.[17]
  • Close to 6% of people 18 and older have an alcohol use disorder, but only about 8% of people in this group got treatment for it.[18]
  • About 15% of American adults stop drinking alcohol during Dry January. This break helps them reassess their relationship with alcohol, and for some, it leads to long-term drinking changes.[19]
  • More than 140,000 people die due to alcohol use in the United States every year.[20]

Benefits of Not Drinking FAQ

What known benefits are tied to sobriety?

People who don’t drink potentially live longer, feel better, maintain a healthy weight and have more money when not spending it on alcohol. They may also see improvements in their work performance, mood, overall energy levels, and ability to maintain meaningful relationships with their friends and families.

What happens to your body after just a week of no alcohol?

Even after a week or two of sustained abstinence, you will likely notice improvements in your health. People who quit drinking generally sleep better and feel less brain fog. You may also begin to eat better and shed any excess weight now that you ingest fewer “empty” calories from alcohol. 

You may also notice improvements in your organ function very quickly. For example, someone with hepatitis (acute liver inflammation) from alcohol use can recover completely after only a few days of abstinence. However, some damage may be more permanent, which means the sooner you cut down or even stop drinking, the more you can prevent any long-term organ damage.

Is it better to have less versus absolutely no alcohol?

This is a personal question, and answers can vary. At Bicycle Health, we certainly don’t insist on absolute abstinence from alcohol. Some people may decide that simply cutting down is right for them, while others may know that they must abstain from alcohol. 

Talk to your friends, family and doctors about how much alcohol you feel is appropriate to have as part of your life. Reach out to us at Bicycle Health if you would like assistance in decreasing your intake or even discontinuing alcohol use altogether.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Even Light Drinking Increases Risk of Death. Science Daily. October 2018. Accessed February 2023.
  2. Calories in Alcohol. National Health Service. January 2020. Accessed February 2023.
  3. Interrupted Memories: Alcohol-Induced Blackouts. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. March 2021. Accessed February 2023.
  4. Alcohol and the Risk of Injury. Nutrients. August 2021. Accessed February 2023.
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  6. Alcohol and the Sleeping Brain. Handbook of Clinical Neurology. February 2018. Accessed February 2023.
  7. Survey: Millennials Spend $300 a Month on Alcohol. News Channel 8. January 2020. Accessed February 2023.
  8. Alcohol and Cancer Risk. National Cancer Institute. July 2021. Accessed February 2023.
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  10. Alcohol Outcome Expectancies and Regrettable Drinking-Related Social Behaviors. Alcohol and Alcoholism. July 2015. Accessed February 2023.
  11. Arackal BS, Benegal V. Prevalence of sexual dysfunction in male subjects with alcohol dependence. Indian J Psychiatry. 2007;49(2):109-112.
  12. Salari N, Hasheminezhad R, Almasi A, et al. The risk of sexual dysfunction associated with alcohol consumption in women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Womens Health. 2023;23(1):213. Published 2023 May 2.
  13. Zima T. Alcohol Abuse. EJIFCC. 2018;29(4):285-289. Published 2018 Dec 5. Accessed July 11, 2023.
  14. ​​Durazzo TC, Mon A, Gazdzinski S, Meyerhoff DJ. Regional brain volume changes in alcohol-dependent individuals during early abstinence: associations with relapse following treatment. Addict Biol. 2017;22(5):1416-1425. doi:10.1111/adb.12420
  15. Anam AK, Insogna K. Update on Osteoporosis Screening and Management. Med Clin North Am. 2021;105(6):1117-1134. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2021.05.016
  16. Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. April 2021. Accessed February 2023.
  17. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2020. Accessed February 2023.
  18. Alcohol Facts and Statistics. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Accessed February 2023.
  19. From Dry January to Sober October: Cutting Back on Alcohol. American Association for Cancer Research. January 2023. Accessed February 2023.
  20. Deaths from Excessive Alcohol Use in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. July 2022. Accessed February 2023.

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