I used to be a heavy alcohol drinker but recently I made up my mind to cut out booze completely. My friends, however, tell me that it is not healthy to drop alcohol abruptly. Is this true? Does this mean I should take alcohol in moderation then finally quit or what I have done is equally fine?
What your friends say is partially true. When one drinks alcohol heavily, over time the body cells and also brain cells become habituated to it, causing dependence. This creates an urge to drink at the same time every day.
Failing to get usual quantity of drink, one can have uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. There can be palpitations, tremors of hands, sweating, difficulty in concentration, difficulty in sleeping, vague restlessness, one or more of these symptoms. These compel the person to drink again, thus creating a vicious cycle where he cannot do without booze. Drinking in small quantity is recommended by some people for overcoming the troublesome withdrawal symptoms, but is not a very good option.
However, much depends on the mental make-up and lifestyle of an individual. Strong minded people are known to stop alcohol abruptly and get over withdrawal symptoms in few days. Keeping oneself occupied is also beneficial to overcome craving for drinking . When one gets the urge to drink, munching something harmless like nuts or drinking something non alcoholic helps to reduce the urge to drink. Some become very stressed after stopping alcohol, needing hospitalisation, tranquilisers and sedatives are prescribed to a person to get relief from these problems. Alcohol provides only calories to the body, and no other nutrients. It also depletes body of essential vitamins like vitamin B complex. Hence after stopping alcohol, it is vital to take a balanced diet including fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish and milk products. Vitamin supplements are also useful.
So if you have decided to quit alcohol, go ahead. Be mentally prepared for some discomfort for few days, try the measures suggested to overcome the craving for drinking. Over time you would definitely feel more healthy and fresh.
Dr Rachna Pande is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital