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What is Dry January?

No, it doesn’t mean January will be a dry month. Rainfall and moisture in the air won’t be low, and there won’t be a drought.

Dry January means abstaining from alcohol during the first month of the new year. It has become a yearly tradition for many people since it began eight years ago. Others look at it as a way of detoxifying from too much drinking during the holidays—sort of like a New Year’s resolution. 

When did Dry January start? Dry January is the name of the campaign initiated by the British charity, Alcohol Change UK in 2013. The campaign called on people to “ditch the hangover, reduce the waistline, and save some serious money” by giving up alcohol for a whole month. 

Back then, only about 4,000 people joined the campaign. Today, millions of people worldwide take part in the challenge. 

How Alcohol Affects the Body 

You’re probably aware of the short-term side effects of drinking alcohol: lowered inhibitions, loss of coordination, mood swings, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sounds. It also has anxiolytic properties, which makes people feel more relaxed.

Often, it’s this feeling people chase while disregarding the consequences that might result because of their intoxication, such as:

  • Drownings 
  • Falls
  • Vehicular crashes
  • Violence
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Risky sexual behaviours
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth in pregnant women

A drunk man sleeping on a bench at a park

When excessive amounts of alcohol are consumed in the long run, it can also cause:

Dry January Benefits 

Alcohol consumption can lead to chronic diseases over time. Healthy individuals who notice they’ve been drinking a bit more than they should will reap a lot of benefits from abstaining like:

Weight Loss

Alcoholic beverages are loaded with calories regardless of what kind it is. For example, a glass of wine has about 160 calories, beer has 103 to 350 calories, and mixed drinks can have as much as 568 calories.

When you abstain from drinking, you’ll shed those extra calories. On top of that, you’d probably consume less junk food than you usually would when drinking alcohol, which also helps you lose weight. 

Just how much weight will you lose if you stop drinking? It depends on your starting weight and how much you were drinking before. But expect to shed around a pound per week.

Less Bloating

Drinking alcohol makes your stomach produce more acid. The gas that builds up in your stomach is what makes you feel bloated. 

The excess gas also irritates the lining of the intestines, which adds to the feeling of bloatedness. Aside from that, alcohol also makes food pass more slowly out of the stomach, which causes your stomach to feel distended

Brighter Skin

If drinking water makes you pee often, you’ll urinate even more frequently if you drink alcohol. That’s because alcohol is a known diuretic. These frequent visits to the restroom will make it hard for your body to hydrate itself, which can lead to dry, dull skin. 

Alcohol also increases estrogen and cortisol—two chemicals that spike your blood sugar and cause acne breakouts. Studies also show the toxins in alcohol speed up the skin’s aging process.

Stronger Immune System

Studies found that binge drinking suppresses your body’s immune response. This increases your susceptibility to diseases like pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and sepsis.

But There Are Serious Risks, Too 

As good as all those benefits sound, Dry January isn’t for everybody. It’s healthy and achievable for moderate drinkers, but it’s a different case for daily drinkers. Here’s why:

There’s a Big Chance of Rebound

You want to quit drinking. But if you spend an entire month suppressing your desire to drink—while actively thinking about it anyway—there’s a tendency to still consume alcohol when the prohibition month is over. 

It Encourages Binge Drinking

Not only are there huge chances of rebound, but the tendency to binge-drink after a month of abstinence is real too. That’s because it’s human nature to overcompensate.

You might succeed in abstaining from alcohol in January, but your February might end up even more wet than before. In this scenario, we become our own worst enemy.

It Could Trigger Dangerous Withdrawal Symptoms

If you’re unaware that you’re dependent on alcohol and you suddenly stop drinking, you will experience the following withdrawal symptoms just six hours after:

  • Anxiety
  • Shaky, sweat hands
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia

A few more hours and the symptoms could worsen to:

Should You Do Dry January? Here’s What Experts Say:

People tend to forget that just like some prescription drugs, alcohol is a substance that could actually cause death from withdrawal.

Aside from the withdrawal symptoms listed above, abrupt alcohol detox can lead to status epilepticus. It’s when a person experiences a prolonged seizure or a series of seizures without time to regain consciousness.

If there’s a deeper, more serious alcohol problem, experts say Dry January isn’t the right solution or treatment.

A woman raising her arms to break free from her handcuffs

Opt for Recovery Options Under Professional Supervision 

Struggling with alcohol is a double-edged sword: if you continue to drink, you risk death. But you also risk the same if you suddenly stop.

For your safety, experts recommend consulting a professional before abstaining from alcohol or taking part in the Dry January challenge. 

If you need help to objectively evaluate your relationship with alcohol, safely cut back, or quit altogether, get in touch with us. We provide treatment, detoxification, psychosocial support, intervention, and awareness programs that help people recover from alcohol abuse in the safest way possible. 

We also provide emotional recovery programs, mental health counselling, and family therapy to help prevent relapse. Call us now or fill out our contact form to start your journey to sobriety.


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