Most people know that reducing alcohol consumption or switching to alcohol-removed beverages is better for them in the long run. However, it can be helpful to look at a list of reasons not to drink to see just how many ways sobriety — or even sober curiosity — can benefit you.
What are the disadvantages of alcohol? The disadvantages of alcohol are its adverse effects on everything from physical wellness to mental health, as well as the possibility of alcohol addiction, financial problems, and relationship issues.
Alcohol’s bad reputation is pretty well-deserved. Long-term health risks of drinking too much alcohol include serious problems like increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, liver disease, decreased immune system function, and many more.
Excessive vs. Moderate Drinking: The risks we describe below are associated with overuse and/or abuse of alcohol. The criteria for excessive and/or abusive drinking are:
- Binge drinking: Drinking 4 or more drinks (women) or 5 or more drinks (men) in a single event
- Heavy drinking: Drinking 8 or more drinks (women) or 15 or more drinks (men) every week
- Drinking while pregnant
- Drinking before the age of 21
- Drinking and driving (including drinking with a buzz)
- Drinking and taking medications that interact with alcohol
Fortunately, you’ll be surprised by all the fantastic things that happen when you stop drinking. Let’s look at these reasons in a bit more detail…
1. Neurotoxic Effects
A neurotoxin negatively affects the nervous system and nerve cells, potentially even causing long-term brain damage.
Alcohol has long been known to negatively affect the brain, harming brain cells and increasing the risk of brain injury from other sources like poor nutrition, liver disease, and head trauma.
2. Cancer Risk
It’s not a secret that alcohol raises the risk of many different cancers. The types of cancer that are more likely for people who drink alcohol include:
Reduced cancer risk is just one more reason among the many health benefits of never drinking alcohol.
3. Weight Gain
How does alcohol affect your body? Alcohol affects your body by damaging nerve cells in the brain, accelerating the aging process, increasing your risk of cancer, and triggering weight gain.
Unfortunately, any amount of alcohol boils down to empty calories. There are many weight loss benefits of not drinking alcohol. Even switching to a mocktail or alcohol-free beer can reduce your consumption and help with your weight loss goals.
4. Impaired Judgment
Drinking lowers inhibitions by lowering the activity of the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain helps you make decisions and use rational thinking, giving you the ability to assess risks and maintain reasonable inhibitions.
When the brain’s processes are disrupted for a period of time by the influence of alcohol, it can lead to impaired judgment and poor decisions.
5. Accelerated Aging
What’s more, alcohol use can wreak havoc on skin health and accelerate physical signs of aging.
There seems to be a strong link between alcohol use and depression. Some studies show that as many as ⅓ of people who struggle with depression also deal with alcohol abuse.
For those who have mental health concerns, alcohol use can hinder their progress. If you have been diagnosed with depression, you might consider switching to non-alcoholic options for your next glass of wine.
7. Heart Disease
Another reason not to drink: Alcohol can damage the cardiovascular system.
In fact, alcohol is one of the key indicators of heart disease, with binge drinking (4 drinks or more per day) significantly raising the risk of pulmonary artery disease and high blood pressure.
Overindulging on alcohol can lead to regrets the next day. Hangovers occur due to a litany of side effects of alcohol consumption, like:
- Stomach irritation
- Blood sugar fluctuations
9. Memory Impairment
Alcohol is not kind to your memory, either short-term or in the long run. In fact, one study found that a staggering 78% of people diagnosed with alcohol use disorder had experienced changes within their brains.
A night of drinking can slow down communication of nerves in the hippocampus, a center of the brain responsible for memory. Heavy drinking and alcohol dependence can also damage the hippocampus over time, leading to certain types of dementia.
What is the effect of alcohol on the brain? Alcohol can affect both short-term and longer spans of memory. Chronic heavy or binge drinking contributes to a higher dementia risk over time and can also cause “blackouts” and memory loss after a night of drinking.
10. The Effect on Loved Ones
With lowered inhibitions and alcohol’s impact on mental health, it’s possible for drinking to put a strain on your relationships and loved ones. Not only that, but the chronic diseases that alcohol contributes to can place a strain on your caregivers.
11. Liver Problems
Your liver would be happy to give you some reasons not to drink. Alcohol consumption requires your liver, the organ that detoxifies your body, to filter out the toxin of alcohol.
Over time, excessive alcohol use can cause liver cirrhosis, a condition where healthy tissue is replaced by scar tissue inside the liver after significant inflammation and cell death.
Thankfully, quitting drinking can reverse this damage in some cases.
12. Can Lead to Alcoholism
Why should people not drink alcohol? People should not drink alcohol if they have an inclination toward alcohol abuse. This is also called alcoholism, or addiction to drinking alcohol. Left untreated, alcoholism can have devastating effects on people, families, and communities.
Ask yourself this question: How do you feel when you drink alcohol? Does it offer you the ability to feel “normal” again? Do you feel ashamed, ill, or anxious when you drink? These may all be signs that alcoholism is on the horizon.
13. Poor Sleep
Ever drink to help yourself fall asleep? Turns out, this can actually make your sleep quality worse.
Several studies have shown that the higher your alcohol consumption, the poorer your quality of sleep. These effects are magnified for people who already struggle with anxiety, particularly when they use alcohol to self-medicate their mental health concerns.
To add something else into the mix… A study of college students in 2015 found that combining excessive alcohol use with poor sleep leads to increased “alcohol-related harm” and “risk-taking behaviors.”
14. Makes It Impossible To Take Necessary Medications
Many medications interact poorly with alcohol, either interfering with metabolization or increasing the drug’s effects.
Medications that shouldn’t be taken with alcohol include:
- Muscle relaxers
- Anti-inflammatory medications
If your prescription has rendered you a non-drinker, never fear. There are many delicious alternatives to booze.
15. May Lead to Accidents
Studies on alcohol have repeatedly demonstrated that it slows reaction time, which may lead to accidents. It’s one of the reasons that it’s so harmful to drink and drive: Alcohol can slow not only your physical reactions, but your brain’s ability to respond.
16. Birth Defects
Pregnant women who drink are in danger of the devastating fetal alcohol syndrome, which will have permanent effects on children before they’re born.
According to the CDC, it’s simply not worth it to drink if you’re pregnant or may become pregnant.
17. A Compromised Immune System
Among the many reasons not to drink is the toll that alcohol can take on your immune health.
Whether it’s causing inflammation or suppressing immune response, the effects of a drink can send mixed signals to the body, limiting your ability to fight infection and illness.
Alcohol signals to your body that it’s time to get rid of water, acting as a diuretic. Even worse, it also causes your body to struggle with retaining any water you do drink.
This not only leads to a nasty hangover, but the potential for long-term effects if you you’re a regular drinker.
19. Gateway to Other Substances
A study of high school students found that alcohol’s tendency to lower inhibitions caused it to act as a gateway to other substances like tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. This study found that using alcohol was more likely to result in hard drug use than tobacco or weed.
20. Financial Burden
Let’s face it: Alcohol is expensive. A night out drinking can cost hundreds of dollars, and even a cocktail or two at dinner adds $30 to your bill. That adds up over time.
When you quit drinking, you save money on all sorts of alcohol-related expenses, from catching a ride home to a few weekly bottles of red wine. That means you’ll have more to spend on your hobbies, loved ones, and your long-term goals.
Being Sober is More Popular Than Ever
What and when you drink should be your own business. However, if you wish to justify not drinking alcohol anymore, share this list with a friend who’s looking to improve their health and overall well-being. (We think it’s pretty compelling!)
The sober curious movement is picking up steam in the U.S. within recent years, making socializing without alcohol easier than ever. People understand the reasons not to drink and the toll that alcohol can take on overall well-being.
Thankfully, for those that love the taste of a delicious glass of wine, there are options like sparkling rose and sparkling white wine. These tasty options mean you don’t have to trade health for enjoyment.
If you’re considering a sober lifestyle, these 20 reasons not to drink are more than enough to start with. Grab a glass of alcohol-removed wine, and let your wellness (and your taste buds) thank you later.