• Jul 26, 2021
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How to quit alcohol

Alcohol is another of the many high-risk substances that can create addiction, that is, a substance that can very easily cause a pathological need for its consumption. Alcohol for its great involvement in the body, specifically in the reward circuit of the brain and also for its easy access, it can easily cause an addiction, of which the detoxification process is very complex and the abandonment of its consumption. In this Psychology-Online article we explain how to quit alcohol and what your treatment options are.

You may also like: Effects of alcohol on the brain and nervous system


  1. Can you stop drinking alcohol all at once?
  2. Alcohol withdrawal
  3. How to stop drinking alcohol for good
  4. Pills to stop drinking alcohol

Can you stop drinking alcohol all at once?

Alcohol is a potentially addictive substance due to its extensive neurochemical alteration in the body. Trying to stop suddenly can cause poor adherence to treatment that is invasive in nature. Giving up suddenly can cause a reverse reaction: giving up withdrawal and not alcohol all at once.

As mentioned, alcohol consumption causes a great neurochemical alteration in the body, which when trying to stop suddenly will cause the characteristic symptoms of a abstinence, same as for their uncomfortable presentation and not very tolerable will lead to a relapse.

In this article you can see the effects of alcohol on the brain and nervous system.

Alcohol withdrawal.

According to DSM 5 (2013), abstinence from alcohol is the cessation (or reduction) of alcohol consumption that has been very intense and prolonged. Two or more of the following may appear in alcohol withdrawal symptom or following signs within a few hours or days of stopping (or reducing) consumption:

  1. Insomnia.
  2. Psychomotor agitation.
  3. Hyperactivity of the autonomic nervous system, that is, sweating or a heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute).
  4. Increased tremor in the hands.
  5. Hallucinations or transitory visual, auditory or tactile illusions.
  6. Anxiety.
  7. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures.
  8. Nausea or vomiting

Symptoms usually begin when blood alcohol levels drop markedly (that is, within a period of 4 to 12 hours) after alcohol consumption has been stopped or reduced, the peak of intensity may manifest during the second day of abstinence and they can 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 only occurred in less than 3% of people.

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 giving alcohol or benzodiazepines (diazepam for example). Withdrawal symptoms can serve to perpetuate alcohol or beer behaviors and thus contribute to relapse, which causes a continuous alteration of social and labor functioning.

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

How to stop drinking alcohol for good.

How to stop drinking? Next we will see the 4 essential keys for this.

1. Recognition of the problem

Stop drinking alcohol for good is one of the purposes that sometimes seem utopian for family, friends and others people close to the consumer, even for the addict himself it becomes an act that is very outside and also very far from their capabilities.

Something very interesting also happens in this purpose of stopping drinking alcohol, and that is that many times it is considered as a problem only by those close to you. For the addict this seems to be just a habit of drinking a few beers on weekends or the only recourse to alleviate frustrations, so there is no problem to fix.

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

2. Compromise and responsibility

Although, sometimes, accepting the problem to stop drinking alcohol can be disguised in a superfluous resignation (For example, you can say the following: 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 can even be hidden in false and desperate cries for help (For example, the patient may say the following: I will not be able to get out of here without the help of…; I need to get out of here; I need you to help me get out of here; I need you not to go and help me get out of here; I know I have a problem and I'm trying to fix it but I don't want you to walk away). These two mechanisms that appear acceptance, are the opposite of this.

These mechanisms that seem to be the work of someone so intelligent and manipulative, are simple primitive manifestations of everything human being to survive in perpetual gratification, so you must be prepared to know how to face this situation. The following article offers family orientations to help a person with alcoholism.

The next step to stop drinking will be to make the commitment to assume the alcoholism treatment.

3. Detoxification

The detoxification process is often the hardest step being the most susceptible to relapses. Detoxification must often be accompanied by professionals due to the frequent physical symptoms that occur.

This step underlines how complex it is to suddenly stop drinking alcohol because people start without that support to alleviate or intervene with these physical symptoms.

Here you will find more information about how to help a friend with alcoholism.

4. Emotional work

Most if not, all the needs for excessive consumption of some substance are caused by emotional difficulties.

The low tolerance to frustration or the few psychological tools to cope with vicissitudes of life, and that are replaced by the hurried and euphoric leap for being well or feeling good; People who are used to drinking alcohol often manifest behaviors of intolerance to frustration, that is, they seek to alleviate it in a way at the slightest pain or conflict. hurriedly (without speaking or expressing your emotions) drinking and unconsciously manipulating your neurochemical system (especially the dopaminergic systems), and thus feeling full of pleasure or relief.

Returning to the first step of acceptance, people who have a problem with alcohol consumption often deny that they drink because of possible emotional conflicts and they refuse to fully analyze or explore this area of ​​their life, which is often unconscious in content (childhood trauma, little frustration tolerance training). Therefore, the next step to stop drinking and stop needing alcohol to cover up personal problems, will be to carry out a psychological work of self-knowledge and emotional management.

5. Psychological and pharmacological accompaniment

In most cases where there is a problem with alcohol consumption, psychological treatment and some drug are intervened as an adjunct to the procedure. The psychological monitoring will depend on the approach suggested by the clinician and also that required by the patient.

Pills to stop drinking alcohol.

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

This drug prevents dopamine metabolism. The dopamine It is a neurotransmitter that is released in large quantities when alcohol is consumed; Excess dopamine results in symptoms of increased blood pressure, restlessness, anxiety, and other unpleasant symptoms. But it is necessary to emphasize that within these adverse effects hypotension and vitally important dizziness are frequently added, since a A fall can cause a head contusion, and this contusion, as the brain is not irrigated with enough blood, can cause the death.

In someone who is not a regular user, alcohol will be metabolized in the liver by the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase. After ingesting alcohol, it gives rise to acetaldehyde in the body, which continues to transform. When disulfiram blocks or inhibits the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase, a accumulation of acetaldehyde in the blood, thus the increase in blood concentration of acetaldehyde contributes later after alcohol ingestion in patients treated with disulfiram, which consists of a series of unpleasant physical effects, this reaction is also known as the antabus effect.

Disulfiram blocks the reaction, which prevents acetaldehyde from being metabolized and thus causes an increase in its plasma concentrations.

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

The main symptoms of the antabus effect are the following:

  1. Sickness.
  2. Vomiting
  3. Tachycardia.
  4. Acne.
  5. Difficulty breathing.
  6. Redness
  7. Head and neck palpitations.
  8. Throbbing headache
  9. Sweating
  10. Chest pain
  11. Thirst.
  12. Dyspnoea.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to How to quit alcohol, we recommend that you enter our category of Addictions.


  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5). Editorial Panamericana.
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