Making the most of Dry January
This month is Dry January the one-month challenge for millions of people around the UK to give up alcohol and feel great too! For some people this can be a healthy and fairly easy change to make, but for others it can be more demanding. But the challenge has never been more needed, as new research shows when Covid hit Britain turned to drinking more alcohol with millions of people are consuming up to FIFTY units a week as a result of the pandemic, with 8 million Brits now drinking quantities of alcohol that puts them ‘at risk’.
The figure has risen by 2 million since October 2019 according to experts. This contrasts with the latest UK Chief Medical Officers (CMO) guidelines on drinking (6) that has set up a stricter threshold for hazardous alcohol intake (14 units per week), which is now equal for men and women.
The mental health consequences of the current pandemic, and of the associated restrictions on movement and social gatherings, are still to be truly recognised. But it is clear many people increased their consumption of alcohol during this very stressful period, which is reflected by The British Liver Trust reporting a 500% rise in calls to its helpline since the lockdown began in March 2020.
The Dry January campaign was re-launched in 2016. This web-based unique campaign, supported by a non-profit organization Alcohol Concern, proposes that participants completely stop drinking alcoholic beverages for one month, January.
This campaign is based on previous data showing that a short time period of abstinence can lead to a quick improvement in some health features:
- insulin resistance, weight loss, BMI, sleep, blood pressure level) (7) and, therefore, encourages alcohol drinkers to maintain sobriety for a prolonged period of time.
Moreover, temporary abstinence from alcohol can provide physiological benefits (8) and positive changes in attitudes and reductions in alcohol consumption (9).
This may act as a precursor to longer-term behaviour change, since after a person has made a commitment to a single behaviour change, it is more likely that she/he will make larger and longer lasting changes in keeping with the initial commitment (10).
Organisations in many other countries run campaigns that challenge people to give up alcohol for a month, similar to dry January. These include ‘Dry July’ in Australia (www.dryjuly.com) and New Zealand (www.dryjuly.co. nz). Other organisations such as ‘Hello Sunday Morning’ (www. hellosundaymorning.org) encourage people to take a break from alcohol or to reduce their intake, but not in the context of a monthly abstinence challenge. The UK charity Alcohol Concern first ran ‘Dry January’ in 2013 as part of its efforts to change the drinking culture through ‘social contagion’ whereby healthy changes in beliefs and behaviour among a sub-group of people spread through the population (11).
However, in contrast to “Dry January”, Australian health promotion campaigns often advise that excessive alcohol consumption and associated forms of harm can be reduced by avoiding “shouting” or buying rounds as is common in UK.
For example, the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, in its ‘Practical tips for low-risk drinking’, advises drinkers to ‘Avoid keeping up with friends drink for drink or being in “shouts/rounds”’ (12). Drink at your own pace. If you can’t avoid buying a shout, get yourself a non-alcoholic drink’ (13). Such advice is based on three implicit and perhaps related assumptions about drinking in social settings:
(1) engaging in round drinking reduces control over the amount of alcohol consumed
(2) opting out of round drinking increases one’s awareness of, and ability to control, the amount of alcohol consumed
(3) the social relations established through, and governing, “shouts/rounds” drinking practices can be easily set aside in favour of individual choices.
One of the strategies which can be of value in helping the liver whilst reducing or giving up their alcohol intake achieve a more rapid return to optimal health involves the use of milk thistle extract, rich in silymarin. A milk thistle supplement can benefit the liver, because it generally it exerts its’ antioxidant and protective effects on this organ mainly through its ability to directly scavenge harmful free radicals produced during metabolism of substances such as alcohol in the liver. View our Milk Thistle Supplement Here.
That poor nutritional status is also a complication of excessive alcohol intake is widely recognised and a useful way to rapidly correct any deficiencies lies in the second supplementary intervention which revolves around using a high-quality multivitamin supplement to help rapidly rebuild micronutrient supplies that might have become depleted. View our Multivitamin Supplement Here.
If you are concerned that you or someone you care about has a drinking problem there is help available. Deciding to get help with your drinking is a significant and positive first step. Below are several ways you can access support, advice or treatment.
Drinkline is a confidential helpline for those worried about their own or someone else's drinking. They can put you in touch with your local alcohol advice centre for help and support.
- Phone: 0300 123 1110
- NHS information on alcohol abuse
- Visit the NHS website
Alcoholics Anonymous provides opportunities to share experience, strength and hope to recover from alcoholism.
- Phone: 0800 9177 650
- Visit the Alcoholics Anonymous website
Al-Anon Family Groups provide support to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking, through regular meetings throughout the UK, where members share their own experience of living with alcoholism.
- Alateen is part of Al-Anon, for teenage (12-17) relatives and friends of alcoholics.
- Phone: 08000 086 811
- Visit the Al-Anon website