Fancy a dry January? Here’s what you need to know about abstaining from alcohol for a month



Stopping drinking for a month after the excesses of the holiday season – otherwise known as dry January – has become a popular New Year’s resolution. And this year, although the stress of the pandemic and a new variant could make an even more tempting nightcap, experts say it’s always worth taking the time to reassess your drinking in the New Year.

“With the pandemic, what the research is telling us is that people are using more substances, in general,” said Erin Goodhart, senior clinical director of women’s services at Caron Treatment Centers, a treatment program for addiction with multiple facilities in the Philadelphia area.

Although some people stop drinking completely after a month of abstinence, many use Dry January as a starting point to explore their drinking habits and change them if necessary. “One of the benefits of Dry January is using it as a way to look at some of your substance use or alcohol use and develop new habits,” Goodhart said.

There isn’t much research on Dry January itself, but some studies show that stopping drinking for a month can have beneficial health effects, Patricia Powell, deputy director of the National Institute, wrote on alcohol abuse and alcoholism, in an e-mail. A 2016 study of more than 800 adults in the UK who undertook a Dry January found that most participants drank less and got drunk less often afterward, said Powell.

Many Dry January attendees try to abstain from alcohol altogether for a month, but any reduction in alcohol consumption can be beneficial, said Henry Kranzler, physician and director of the Center for Studies of Addiction at Perelman. School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Some participants may stop drinking during the week or just reduce their alcohol intake in general.

“I think the safest approach to drinking is to think of it like driving,” Kranzler said. “There is no level of safety that people drive. If you drive, you are at risk of having an accident, and potentially fatal. Corn How? ‘Or’ What how much you drive can significantly influence your risk, just as the amount of alcohol you drink can significantly influence your risk for alcohol-related harm.

The evidence strongly points to the idea that men or women should not drink more than a standard drink per day on average. (A standard drink is a 12-ounce bottle of beer, five-ounce wine, or one ounce of alcohol.)

Kranzler is not a teetotaler – “Alcohol is not good for you, on the whole, and I say this with some degree of discomfort, only because I really like good wine,” said he said, laughing. But he tries to limit himself to these guidelines.

Recovery or well-being is not the same for everyone, Goodhart said. “Even if participants don’t drink problematically or don’t intend to maintain long-term abstinence, there are still benefits to doing Dry January,” she said. “You can develop new hobbies, develop a support system, find other things that you enjoy doing with friends that are not around alcohol.” In Philadelphia, that might not even mean avoiding the bar – many restaurants here have developed increasingly sophisticated mocktails over the years.

“If your idea of ​​relaxing or taking care of yourself at the end of the night is with a glass of wine or a cocktail, think of things you can do to always feel rewarded: take a hot shower, read a book, keep a journal, ”says Goodhart.

The development of new coping mechanisms may be particularly needed as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third year. Powell said research from 2020 suggests more people increased their alcohol consumption during the pandemic.

READ MORE: Women now drink as much as men and are prone to disease earlier

Stress has particularly contributed to the increase in alcohol consumption, she said. “Being a woman, having kids at home, dealing with depression or anxiety, and losing income were associated with higher alcohol consumption,” she said. “Early data suggests more people have developed alcohol-related liver disease and needed transplants during the pandemic, and one study suggests hospitalizations related to alcohol withdrawal have also increased.”

People who are physically dependent on alcohol should be careful before suddenly stopping drinking, as alcohol withdrawal can be fatal in severe cases. Powell said heavy drinkers should see their doctor before starting Dry January and talk about the possibility of them going into withdrawal. And, she added, once the month is over, it’s important to try not to make up for lost alcohol consumption – in the UK study on Dry January, around 11% of participants said they drink more. six months later.

READ MORE: Alcohol abuse fueled by pandemic creates wave of hospitalizations for liver disease

For people who find it more difficult to quit smoking than expected, the NIAAA has an online navigation system to help connect patients to treatment for alcohol use disorders.

For anyone considering abstaining for the month, Goodhart said, letting friends and family know about your plans can make it easier to achieve your goal.

“The more connected you can be with a professional or a peer support system, the better. Just by opening the door for a friend, having someone you can check in with – we can really reduce the shame or the stigma by having one or two trustworthy people to turn to if you’re having a hard time, ”he said. she declared.


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