How to stop drinking alcohol?


In this article, I explain the 4 essential keys to stopping drinking alcohol definitively and what your treatment options are.

Table of contents

Alcohol is another of the many high-risk substances that can create dependency, that is, a substance that can very easily provoke a pathological need for its consumption.

Alcohol, because of its great involvement in the body, especially in the brain's reward circuit, and also because of its easy access, can easily cause addiction, whose detoxification process and in itself the abandonment of its consumption is very complex.

In this article, I will explain how to stop drinking alcohol and what your treatment options are.


Can you stop drinking alcohol at once?

Alcohol is a potentially addictive substance due to its significant neurochemical alteration in the body. Trying to stop suddenly can result in poor compliance, which is invasive in nature. Stopping cold turkey can cause a reverse reaction: stop abstinence and not stop cold turkey alcohol.

As mentioned, the consumption of alcohol causes a great neurochemical alteration in the body, which, trying to stop suddenly, will cause the characteristic symptoms of withdrawal, which, because of their uncomfortable and intolerable presentation, will lead to relapse.

Alcohol withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal is the cessation (or reduction) of alcohol consumption that has been very intense and prolonged. In alcohol withdrawal, two or more of the following symptoms or signs may appear within hours or days of stopping (or reducing) drinking:

  • Insomnia
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Hyperactivity of the autonomic nervous system (i.e., sweating or heart rate over 100 beats per minute)
  • Increased trembling in the hands
  • Transient visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations or illusions
  • Anxiety
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures
  • Nausea or vomiting

Symptoms usually begin when blood alcohol concentrations drop markedly (i.e., within 4 to 12 hours) after cessation or reduction of alcohol consumption, with peak intensity occurring on the second day of withdrawal and may improve significantly on the fourth or fifth day.

However, in acute withdrawal, symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, and autonomic dysfunction may persist for 3 to 6 months with less intensity. It should be noted that generalized tonic-clonic seizures have occurred in less than 3% of individuals.

The most serious and dangerous form of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens, characterized by confusion, tremors, hallucinations, and other symptoms already mentioned. The imbalance of the nervous system is such that it will require hospitalization.

Withdrawal symptoms can be relieved by the administration of alcohol or benzodiazepines (e.g. diazepam). Withdrawal symptoms may serve to perpetuate behaviors with alcohol or beer and thus contribute to relapse, resulting in continued impairment of social and occupational functioning.

The withdrawal syndrome will also depend on the type of alcoholism.

How to stop drinking alcohol forever

The 4 essential keys to stopping drinking alcohol definitely.

1. Recognition of the problem

Quitting alcohol for good is one of the goals that sometimes seem utopian to family, friends, and other people close to the user, even for the addict himself, it becomes a very external act and also far from his abilities.

Something very interesting also happens in this goal of quitting drinking alcohol, is that it is often only seen as a problem by those close to them. To the addict, it seems to be just a habit of having a few beers on the weekend or the only recourse to relieve frustration, so there is no problem to solve.

The first step in overcoming an apparent addiction will always be acceptance, accepting that there is a problem to overcome and therefore a possible solution.

2. Commitment and responsibility

Although sometimes accepting the problem of quitting drinking may be disguised as unnecessary resignation (e.g., one may say: I know I have a problem, but I can't stop drinking; I have no solution; I'm already lost; no one can get me out of here) or it may even be hidden in false and desperate pleas for help (e.g., the patient may say: I can't get out of here without help from... I need to get out of here; I need you to help me get out of here; I don't need you to help me get out of here; I know I have a problem and I'm trying to solve it, but I don't want you to leave). These two mechanisms that seem to accept, are the opposite of that.

These mechanisms that seem to be the work of someone so intelligent and manipulative, are simply primitive manifestations of every human being to survive in perpetual gratification, so you must be prepared to know how to deal with this situation.

The next step in quitting drinking is to commit to alcohol treatment.

3. Detox

The detoxification process is often the most difficult step because it is the most likely to relapse. Detoxification often needs to be accompanied by medical professionals because of the frequent physical symptoms that occur.

This stage highlights how complex it is to suddenly stop drinking because people start without the support that mitigates or intervenes with these physical symptoms.

4. Emotional work

Most if not all cravings for addiction are caused by emotional difficulties.

Low frustration tolerance or few psychological tools to deal with the vicissitudes of life are well known, and they are replaced by the precipitous and euphoric leap of doing well or feeling good.

people who are used to drinking alcohol often display frustration intolerance behaviors, that is, at the slightest pain or conflict, they seek to relieve it quickly (without speaking or expressing their emotions) by drinking and unconsciously manipulating their neurochemical system (especially the dopaminergic systems), and thus feel full of pleasure or relief.

Returning to the first step of acceptance, people with a drinking problem frequently deny that they drink because of possible emotional conflicts and refuse to analyze or explore in-depth this area of their lives, often with unconscious content (childhood trauma, little training in frustration tolerance).

Therefore, the next step to stop drinking and stop needing alcohol to hide personal problems will be to do psychological work on self-knowledge and emotional management.

5. Psychological and pharmacological support

In most cases where there is a drinking problem, psychological treatment and some medication are used to complement the procedure. The psychological support will depend on the approach proposed by the clinician and also on the one requested by the patient.

Pills to stop drinking alcohol

Pills to stop drinking alcohol
Pills to stop drinking alcohol

The most widely used drug in the intervention of alcohol consumption problems is disulfiram, which causes an acute reaction to ethanol consumption. Under the trade name of Antbus.

This drug prevents the metabolism of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released in large quantities during the consumption of alcohol. An excess of dopamine causes symptoms of increased blood pressure, agitation, anxiety, and other unpleasant symptoms.

But it should be noted that in addition to these side effects, hypotension and dizziness are frequently present, which are of vital importance, since a fall can cause a cranial contusion, and said contusion, since the brain is not irrigated with a sufficient amount of blood, can cause death.

In someone who is not a regular consumer, alcohol will be metabolized in the liver by the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase. After alcohol consumption, it gives rise to acetaldehyde in the body, which continues to be transformed.

When disulfiram blocks or inhibits the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase, an accumulation of acetaldehyde in the blood is caused, so the increase in blood concentration of acetaldehyde contributes after the consumption of alcohol in patients treated with disulfiram, which consists of a series of unpleasant physical effects, this reaction is also known as the Antabuse effect.

Disulfiram blocks the reaction, preventing acetaldehyde from being metabolized and thus causing an increase in its plasma concentrations.

This drug is indicated for the treatment of alcoholism in detoxification programs. Since acetaldehyde is responsible for hangovers, drinking alcohol under treatment or under the effect of disulfiram will produce an immediate and acute (much more severe) hangover.

The main symptoms of the Antabuse effect are as follows:

  1. Nausea
  2. Vomiting
  3. Tachycardia
  4. Acne
  5. Difficulty in breathing
  6. Redness
  7. Palpitations in the head and neck
  8. Stabbing headaches
  9. sweatin
  10. Chest pain
  11. Thirst
  12. Dyspnea

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative, I have no authority to make a diagnosis or recommend treatment. I invite you to visit a psychologist to treat your particular case.