Dry January: Why take a break from booze?
“Dryuary” or “Dry January” started in 2013 in the United Kingdom and is gaining popularity in the United States. Committing to 30 days of not drinking alcohol is an excellent way to reevaluate your relationship with booze. As you explore other ways to relax and experience life sober, you will be improving both your physical and mental health. Caution: Chronic, heavy, and daily drinkers may experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms and should seek the advice of a medical professional before attempting an abstinence program.
The negative effects of alcohol use may include liver damage, increased risk of many cancers, disrupted sleep, lost productivity, and often, disrupted relationships. Alcohol use also causes memory problems and impaired judgment. Even moderate use of alcohol may worsen depression and anxiety and cause impulsive behaviors. Many people commit suicide while intoxicated.
With fewer than 30 days of abstinence from alcohol, improved sleep is almost immediate. Healthier looking skin and weight loss are common. Increased energy, improved mental clarity, and less anxiety result in more productivity and better moods. The sense of achievement is a powerful motivator to increase other healthy habits. Hobbies such as reading, exercising, or arts and crafts become more enjoyable. Thirty days of sobriety also results in an improved immune system and better liver function, and most people maintain these benefits well beyond the 30 days.
Research shows that habitual drinkers are often unaware of how much they are drinking and may not know the definition of moderate drinking. The latest research as published in The Lancet (April 2018), suggests moderate drinking should not exceed five to six standard drinks per week or about one standard drink per day — but not daily drinking! Also, moderate drinking means limiting how fast you drink and, as a result, keeping your blood alcohol concentration below .055, which indicates that, no, you should not drink all five to six drinks on one day. In certain situations, no amount of alcohol is considered safe, such as during pregnancy, when taking certain medications, when it involves those younger than age 21, or when driving or operating dangerous machinery.
A standard drink is equal to the following
• A 12-ounce beer with 5 percent alcohol.
• A 5-ounce glass of wine with 12.5 percent alcohol.
• 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor.
Dry 30 offers the opportunity to reset drinking habits toward moderation. Studies show that, after completing “Dryuary,” most people continued to drink less up to eight months later. There are many online sources for self-assessment and support during a Dry 30, including Rethinking Drinking, Moderation Management, moderatedrinking.com, dryuary.org, alcoholchange.org.UK, and SAMHSA.
If moderation is not possible, there may be evidence of alcohol addiction or dependence requiring professional help. Mind Springs Health offers individual assessment of alcohol use and many approaches to treatment, including individual and group therapy, as well as pharmacotherapy. Why wait? Give dry a try!
For more information, contact Mind Springs Health at mindspringshealth.org.
Mary Horn, MN, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC, APN, is an advanced psychiatric nurse practitioner for Mind Springs Health and is committed to reducing the stigma of mental illness through community education. She can be reached at 970-920-5555. For more information about local mental health resources, mindspringshealth.org.