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After the festivity of the holidays rolls into the New Year, it’s not uncommon for people to feel rundown mentally and physically from overeating, especially drinking more than usual. Dry January is a way for people to hit the “reset button” to 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 eight drinks a week for women and 15 men.
Consuming more than four drinks in one sitting for women and 5 for men is binge drinking.
When Did Dry January Start?
In 2013, a British nonprofit now called Alcohol Change UK kicked off the idea 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 after that.
In its first year, an estimated 4,000 people participated in the event. That number has since ballooned to millions of people.
“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, relax and 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?
Indeed, a period of abstinence from alcohol is healthier than regular drinking, even for moderate drinkers.
Alcohol is known to contribute to several cancers, can cause liver disease, and affect mental health because it is a depressant.
While avoiding alcohol altogether is the healthiest and safest option, even a temporary period of sobriety can improve overall health and well-being.
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 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 before 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 die from going into withdrawal. People forget that.”
Both Zissman and the developers of the Try Dry: The Dry January app, which tracks progress, suggest that heavy drinkers, or those who feel they may be dealing with an addiction, speak to a healthcare 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 overdid it in December and realized they needed help.
For people that don’t need treatment, Dry January is a chance to start the New Year positively and set the tone for a healthier lifestyle that lasts all year.