Here’s What Happens To Your Brain When You Quit Alcohol

Here’s What Happens To Your Brain When You Quit Alcohol

This year, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation found that one in 10 Australians consume more than 10 standard drinks per week. Amidst the pandemic, they found that one in eight Aussies were drinking alcohol every day. Considering the well-documented risks associated with the overconsumption of alcohol, sober October – or ‘Ocsober’ – could be a good opportunity to give boozing a little break. 

Not only does a sober stint reduce liver damage, improve insulin resistance and cancer risk, assist in mental health, and your out-of-pocket expenses, but it can also have a significant impact on the wellbeing of your brain.

Speaking to Bustle, Sierra Tucson’s associate medical director Donald Sansom, D.O., said: “when we stop drinking, our brains begin to heal on a neurochemical level.”

Sober October

According to Sansom, alcohol affects gama-amino butyric acid (GABA), which inhibits brain activity, as well as glutamate, which stimulates it. When you drink, glutamate is less able to stimulate the brain, and GABA becomes better at inhibiting it. Essentially, this combo makes you more relaxed and happy – but it also slows some of your brain’s signalling.

Sansom explains that when you stop drinking “in most individuals, these receptors begin to reset themselves to a baseline level.”

There is also evidence that going sober can help recover brain volume. “Alcohol tends to have a negative impact upon the frontal cortex,” Sansom tells Bustle. Studies show that alcohol can damage the frontal cortex’s ability to produce new cells and heal itself, therefore, taking a break from drinking could help recover your memories more easily. 

Perhaps one of the most interesting benefits of going sober is the impact it has on the brain’s limbic system, which affects feelings of contentment. “Alcohol consumption, like other drugs, is associated with a release of dopamine as a reward,” Sansom says. “This fact, along with alcohol-related stimulation of our body’s own natural opioids, is a significant reason why most individuals associate alcohol with pleasure.”

Taking a break from the bottle will make your dopamine system produce more cravings, but it can rewire itself over a few days or weeks. 

Sober October

The brain is a beautiful machine, and if servicing it means taking a break from drinking, it’s probably worth it. 

If you’d like to talk to someone about your drinking, call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015. It’s a free call from anywhere in Australia.

You can also chat online with a counsellor at CounsellingOnline. Or talk to your GP about seeing a psychologist or counsellor.


  • I used to drink a bottle of wine almost every day after work just to stop thinking about the relationship I was in and how lonely I felt. Anyway, I stopped drinking about a week before I broke up with my partner of 10 years. I’ve had half a bottle of beer in 11 months. But here’s the weird part which nobody will want to hear… I haven’t lost any weight and I really don’t feel any different. In fact, I never used to have trouble remembering things, but now I do. Maybe my baseline sucks? Or maybe after drinking for who knows how many years, I’ve already killed everything off… lol. Maybe I’ll start drinking again when I hit 30 so I don’t go completely down the drain.

  • I just went through a breakup and I was a mess in the first couple of months. It also was the start of lockdown and it was not pleasant at all. I could not rely on my friends to have some support and I did indulge into alcohol as well. But then I took responsibility. No matter what you drink or eat or do, it remains your life and your responsibility. N0 one else is going to fix you or heal you except yourself.
    I will say you are on the right track and keep making progress. It takes one step every day but after a year from now, you will have realised you are a new person.
    I did same. The last glass of wine was back in April and I have not touched it again. I have lost 10kg since and feel like a new man. In fact I am grateful I broke up now. It was the slap I needed.
    Hang in there man.

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