Find out if practicing “dry January” is the best way to stop drinking

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As the first days of the year go by, eSome of us may feel the impending need to bounce back from the excesses of 2021 and especially those related to Christmas celebrations. And of course, more specifically of those drinks and glasses of champagne that we drank with singular joy. Alcohol use has been an underestimated side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic; in fact there is a revealing study in which it was found that More than 60% of the participants estimated that their alcohol consumption increased compared to pre-COVID habits. The truth is that for many, any excess of indulgence is the direct path to New Year’s resolutions that involve drinking less or even stopping drinking altogether. These are possible reasons that could explain the increasing popularity of dry January. While it is undeniable that it is a good method to improve health and energy levels, is it enough to stop alcohol permanently? Read on for expert opinion.

Known by some as Dryuary, those who decide to enter the dynamic of dry January are given the task of hiding everything related to alcohol and go the whole month without consuming a single drop. In a January 2021 survey by Morning Consult: 13% of a sample of American adults said they planned to stop using alcohol for a month. Of them, 79% said they were curbing their drinking with the main goal of being healthier. But what difference does dry January make? It’s worth a try?

According to statements by Scott Hadland, one of the most recognized specialists on the subject and who is an expert on addictions at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Harvard Medical School. The response to a dry January can vary greatly from person to person. According to Hadland: Quitting drinking can have some immediate effects, but the impact will depend on how much you get used to drinking to begin with. For someone who drinks in moderation (1-2 drinks a day, on average), a break from alcohol can lead to weight loss, better sleep, and a higher energy level. “There may be some noticeable immediate improvements” and they really shouldn’t be underestimated.

Another great thing about giving yourself the opportunity to experience an alcohol withdrawal episode is that can help convince people that they are better off without alcohol completely, or at least help them see the benefits of cutting back. But Hadland cautions that this depends on the psychology and circumstances of each individual’s life.

The truth is, professionals are still out on the long-term effects of challenges like dry January. While some studies have shown that people report continuing to drink less after a month without alcohol, a 2021 study found that an increase in the UK dry January share between 2015 and 2018 was not associated with a corresponding drop in general consumption nationwide.

Also, experts point out that in some circumstances, practicing dry January could do more harm than good. Especially in cases of compulsive drinkers: going suddenly can trigger acute alcohol withdrawal. As defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, male heavy drinkers consume more than 4 drinks per day, which is equivalent to 14 drinks per week. And in the case of women, more than 3 drinks per day, which is equivalent to 7 drinks per week. In general, the behavior of compulsive drinkers is defined, also by the speed at which they usually drink: consume up to 4 or more drinks (women) or 5 or more drinks (men) in a two-hour period, or reach blood alcohol concentration levels of 0.08% or more.

The human body gets used to chronic alcohol use by producing large amounts of chemicals such as serotonin, with the goal of compensating for the ways in which alcohol slows down the brain and nervous system. When chronic drinkers eliminate alcohol, the brain continues to produce those chemicals and can respond with very delicate symptoms ranging from anxiety to delirium tremens, seizures and death. According to the professionals, in the specific cases of heavy drinkers who want to stop drinking, it is always advisable to consult a doctor so that they can obtain the necessary support.

According to Hadland’s remarks: “Anyone who is drinking heavily or excessively should speak to a healthcare provider if they are considering stopping drinking during the month of January.” These types of struggles often require more intense clinical intervention and stronger support than a single month of abstinence.. Additionally, he stated that he is concerned that the challenges of dry January perpetuate the idea that quitting alcohol can be achieved with sheer force of will. In most cases this is not the case, and in cases of people with excessive consumption who need to overcome alcohol abuse Hadland advises consulting the resources offered by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

There is one last issue to mention about dry January, and it is actually considered a potential side effect: the feeling of failure, before any slip. In this regard, Sheila Vakharia, who is deputy director of the research and academic engagement department of the Drug Policy Alliance – a non-profit organization that works to end the war on drugs by promoting decriminalization, came out clearly. of drug use. “These all-or-nothing experiments can make us feel worse about ourselves instead of getting the results we want.”

Rather, Vakharia encourages anyone considering a dry January to think about their motivations and assess how much they are actually drinking, and then wondering if making small changes could bring you closer to your goal than a month of elusive abstinence. Additionally, there are some behaviors that require commitment: never drink alone, do not exceed a certain amount of drinks in a night, or adhere to a certain monthly budget for the purchase of alcohol. They are steps that can help keep people’s drinking in check and deliver on some of the temporary promises of dry January in the long run.

Finally the issue of alcohol consumption is highly variable between each individual. Although for some cases where consumption is moderate, dry January can be a great strategy; For people with abusive consumption, it can be worse and the intervention of professionals will always be timely. On the contrary, it is important not to be too hard on ourselves and bet on following a balanced and healthy lifestyle. In which alcohol consumption is measured and on special occasions.

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