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The benefits of trying “dry January”

There are perks to taking a break from alcohol—especially after the holidays.

As you begin 2020, those around you may be trying their New Year’s resolutions. One resolution growing in popularity is something referred to as “dry January.” Never heard of it? We’re covering the basics for you.

What is “dry January?”

Popularized as a health campaign in the United Kingdom, dry January is intended to raise awareness about alcohol consumption [1]. The campaign has grown rapidly since its inception in 2012, at which time it had about 4,000 pledged participants. Last year, more than 4 million people pledged to take part [2].

The campaign is not meant to be a detox for individuals who have an alcohol dependency. Rather, it is intended to encourage average consumers of alcohol to reconsider their relationship with the substance [1]. Some participants consider it to be a New Year’s resolution with the idea that a prolonged abstention from alcohol will lead to better overall health in the long run [2].

What are the potential benefits of dry January?

  • Deeper understanding of your own habits: If you do drink regularly, this may be an opportunity to reflect on your relationship with alcohol. You’ll likely notice patterns related to how and when you drink [3].
  • Better overall health: Research from the University of Sussex showed that study participants reported their health was generally improved after a month-long break from consuming alcohol. They also reported having more energy, having better concentration, losing weight, and saving money [4].
  • Lower blood pressure: Heavy alcohol consumption (three or more drinks in one sitting) can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. Reducing alcohol intake may lead to a reduction in blood pressure, even if it’s just temporary [5][6].
  • Weight management: Alcohol is full of “empty calories.” It contains no nutritional value, but it is quite caloric. By cutting these extra calories, you may drop a few pounds [7].
  • Better sleep: Drinking alcohol can cause interruptions in your sleep cycle and can lead to grogginess in the morning. A month without alcohol may help you get back into a healthy sleep routine [7].

Can I only do it in January?

No, you can pick any month to be your dry month—or stop drinking altogether. The official campaign runs throughout January, but you can tackle the challenge at any time!

What to watch out for:

The dry January campaign is not for heavy drinkers or people who have previously experienced withdrawal symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines moderate alcohol consumption as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men. If you or someone you know has a substance use disorder, you can get more information here or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at
1-800-662-HELP (
4357).

Sources:

Ballard J. What is Dry January?. The British Journal of General Practice. 2016;66(642): 32. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp16X683173

Thompson D. Will A No-Booze ‘Dry January’ Help Your Health? WebMD. January 3, 2019. Accessed December 19, 2019. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20190103/will-a-no-booze-dry-january-help-your-health#1

Hamilton I, Gilmore I. Could campaigns like Dry January do more harm than good?. BMJ. 2016;352:i143. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i143

University of Sussex. How ‘Dry January’ is the secret to better sleep, saving money and losing weight. Science Daily. December 28, 2018. Accessed December 19, 2019. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181228164834.htm

Limiting Alcohol to Manage High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association. October 31, 2016. Accessed December 19, 2019. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/limiting-alcohol-to-manage-high-blood-pressure

Daley. Alcohol FAQ. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed December 19 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm

6 Benefits of Quitting Alcohol for a Month. UPMC Health Beat. February 3, 2016. Accessed December 19, 2019. https://share.upmc.com/2016/02/6-benefits-quitting-alcohol-month/

References:

Daley. What are substance use disorders and how common are they? UPMC MyHealth Matters Blog. Accessed December 30, 2019. https://www.upmcmyhealthmatters.com/what-are-substance-use-disorders/