By consuming alcoholic beverages, ethanol enters the body. In small doses, it causes short-term euphoria, it can bring a feeling of happiness, independence, greater courage for a while, it can act as an antidepressant.
It can also initially increase appetite, decrease reaction speed, and impair motor skills. It acts on the brain in such a way that, on the one hand, it stimulates and at the same time calms and dulls anxiety, reduces the perception of pain, can suppress the activation of enzymes and hormones, and impair the ability of neurons to switch genes on and off.
“In larger doses, however, it can lead to depression, loss of coordination of body movements, reduced receptivity and reactivity, impaired mental abilities, memory loss and often aggressiveness,” warns doctor Pavel Kohout, head of the Internal Medicine Clinic of the 3rd Faculty of Medicine of the UK and FTN in Prague.
Drinking any amount of alcohol increases the risk of developing up to 60 diseases, experts say
How regular alcohol consumption affects individual organs
Brain: Drinking too much can affect your concentration, judgment, mood and memory. It increases the risk of stroke and the development of dementia.
Heart: Excessive drinking increases blood pressure, which can lead to heart damage and heart attacks.
Liver: Drinking 3-4 glasses of alcohol a day increases the risk of developing liver cancer. Long-term heavy drinking also puts you at increased risk of liver cirrhosis (scarring) and death.
Stomach: Drinking even one to two standard alcoholic drinks a day increases the risk of stomach and bowel cancer as well as stomach ulcers.
Fertility: Regular heavy drinking reduces men’s testosterone levels, sperm count and fertility. For women, excessive drinking can affect their periods.
Abstinence makes sense
All these problems are pointed out by experts from the Dry February initiative, who try to motivate people to abstain for a month in order to test to what extent they have control over alcohol and to what extent it controls them. They will also have the opportunity to find out how many of their problems naturally disappear with abstinence.
At the same time, the initial changes begin to take place in the body just one hour after the start of abstinence, however, in order for everything to really work as it should, abstinence should last as long as possible, i.e. at least 31 days.
Signs of alcohol addiction
Being addicted to alcohol means that you have developed a physical dependence on the drug. As soon as you don’t indulge in your daily dose of alcohol, your body will let you know immediately. You may then experience insomnia, nausea, sweating, anxiety and physical discomfort.
If you suffer from addiction, then it also means that you are constantly consuming more and more alcohol to achieve satisfaction.
Symptoms of alcohol dependence include:
- It worries you when you don’t know when you’ll be able to have another drink.
- You sweat, feel nauseous or sleepless if you don’t drink.
- You need more and more alcohol.
- You think about or crave alcohol right after waking up.
- You try to hide your regular doses of alcohol from others.
- You argue with friends and family over alcohol or alcohol-related entertainment.
“Already after a month of abstinence, we can find that we sleep better, have more energy, are in a more pleasant mood, can concentrate more, and our skin improves,” points out Zuzana Červenková Douchová, a psychologist and nutritional consultant and co-worker of the AquaLife Institute.
Natural weight reduction also often occurs. Alcohol reduces the body’s ability to burn fat and also increases the appetite for various delicacies, which then take precedence over healthy foods, and also promotes overeating. Long-term alcohol consumption can also lead to the development of insulin resistance and, subsequently, liver damage and fattening.
How to manage a month without alcohol
Although many people think they can handle abstinence just fine, the reality is often quite different. However, just because you can go a month without alcohol doesn’t mean you don’t actually have a problem with alcohol consumption. In the same way, if you can’t manage a month’s abstinence, it doesn’t make you an alcoholic.
Of course, the usual level and frequency of alcohol consumption plays an important role in abstinence. “The more and more often you are used to drinking alcoholic beverages, the bigger and more demanding the challenges that come with giving them up. If you can handle the first week, when withdrawal symptoms similar to a hangover or psychological disharmony, anxiety, insomnia, etc. may appear, then in the following weeks you will start to feel the positive effects of abstinence,” explains Zuzana Červenková Douchová.
The following tips can also help you with this:
- Prepare for abstinence both mentally and practically and focus mainly on the first week.
- Get rid of any alcohol at home that might be tempting you unnecessarily.
- Adequate intake of non-alcoholic fluids helps to manage or prevent withdrawal symptoms. Particularly advantageous are natural mineral waters, which have no calories, but supplement the body with important minerals, which is especially useful for weight loss and sports (weakly and moderately mineralized waters are a suitable part of the daily drinking regime).
- If you drink alcohol as a ritual to relax, reduce stress, etc., prepare other, substitute rituals in advance – for example, instead of sitting in the evening with a glass of wine, go for a walk or exercise, instead of sitting in a pub, go to the cinema. You can also try non-alcoholic drinks, which are surprisingly tasty.
- When thinking about an alcoholic drink, occupy yourself with some pleasant activity, ideally sports, which has a positive effect on the psyche.
Alcohol consumption in the Czech population has been high for a long time, and according to the Summary Report on Addictions from 2022, up to 1.7 million inhabitants struggle with risky drinking. At the same time, approximately 10% of people over the age of 15 drink alcohol daily. The number of people who die every year as a result of excessive alcohol consumption (e.g. death from alcoholic liver damage or alcohol intoxication) speaks of the harmful effect of alcohol on our organism. On average, this is two thousand people, while for another five thousand alcohol is directly related to their death. In addition, according to experts, alcohol addicts die on average 24 years earlier than the general population.
When you love someone who is addicted to drugs, alcohol or slot machines