After the revelry of the holidays roll into the New Year, it’s not uncommon for people to feel rundown mentally and physically from overeating, and especially from drinking more than normal. Dry January is a way for people to hit the “reset button” in an effort give their bodies, brains, and bank accounts, a rest from the lingering effects of excessive partying and alcohol consumption.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines heavy drinking as more than 8 drinks a week for women and 15 for men.
Consuming more than 4 drinks in one sitting for women and 5 for men is known as binge drinking.
When Did Dry January Start?
In 2013, a British nonprofit now called Alcohol Change UK kicked off the idea as a way to motivate people to improve their health, lose some weight and save a little cash at the beginning of the year.
The campaign was such a success, it received the backing of the UK government every year thereafter.
In its first year, an estimated 4,000 people participated in the event, but that number has since ballooned to millions of people taking part in the event.
“The brilliant thing about Dry January is that it’s not really about January,” the CEO of Alcohol Change UK, Richard Piper, said in a statement. “Being alcohol free for 31-days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to socialize. That means for the rest of the year, we are better able to make decisions about our drinking and to avoid slipping into drinking more than we want to.”
Will Staying Sober During The Entire Month of January Help?
Certainly, a period of abstinence from alcohol is healthier than drinking regularly, even for moderate drinkers.
Alcohol is known to contribute to several different cancers, can cause liver disease and, more commonly, can inflict serious havoc on a person’s mental health because it is a known depressant.
While avoiding alcohol altogether is the healthiest and safest option for people, even a temporary period of sobriety can improve overall health and wellbeing.
Some of the benefits people report by taking a break from drinking alcohol, according to the Dry January website, in the following:
- Around 70 percent of participants report getting better sleep
- 66 percent said they had more energy
- A general sense of improved health was reported by 65 percent of people
- More than 85 percent of participants said they saved money
- Organizers also said that people who sign up for the month-long event on the website are twice as likely to accomplish their goal
Is Dry January a Replacement for Alcohol Addiction Treatment?
In truth, moderate alcohol drinkers, those without an alcohol use disorder, are likely to have more success going “cold turkey” for the month.
For people who already experience problems related to heavy drinking, alcohol dependency, alcoholism or other substance abuse, a “dry” month is unlikely to address the underlying behavioral issues.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimates that more than 14 million adults aged 18 and over suffered from alcohol use disorder in 2018.
“Largely, the risks are how much is somebody drinking prior to actually participating in Dry January,” Mark Zissman, a psychologist and clinical director at a Midwest treatment facility, told The Chicago Tribune. “Alcohol is one of two substances where people can actually die from going into withdrawal. People forget that.”
Both Zissman and the developers of the Try Dry: The Dry January App, which people can use to track their progress, suggest that heavy drinkers, or those who feel they may be dealing with an addiction, speak to a health care professional before taking on the sobriety challenge.
While an alcohol-free month comes with physical and mental benefits, people struggling with the chronic, relapsing disease of alcohol addiction should seek treatment at either a residential inpatient or outpatient rehab facility.
January is one of the most popular months for people to go to rehab treatment in the United States because of many factors.
Some people want to have one last shot at partying during the holidays and New Year’s Eve before calling it quits. Other people don’t want to be away from family for the holidays and endure keeping it together until January. Others simply overdid it in December and realized they need help.
For people that don’t actually need treatment, Dry January is a chance to start the New Year in a positive way and set the tone for a healthier lifestyle that lasts all year.