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Consider taking a month off – from drinking

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Patrick Johnson

Patrick Johnson

Dry January is a public health campaign founded in Great Britain to encourage people to abstain from alcohol during the month of January.

One aspect of this awful pandemic is that some people have been drinking too much alcohol. Whether it’s a coping mechanism to deal with increased stress or sheer boredom, overusing alcohol anytime has consequences.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines moderate drinking as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Read that again if this is news to you. One drink a day for women and two for men is moderate drinking. Studies in healthy adults with healthy lifestyles who drink alcohol moderately may show that alcohol actually has nothing to do with making them healthier. They already live a healthy lifestyle. All drinking should be done moderately and responsibly.

Excessive or binge drinking can lead to several bad health effects including worsening sleep patterns, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and liver problems. It can also lead to impaired driving and domestic violence. Taking a month off from booze can help you sleep better, feel more energized and let you see how your body feels when it’s “off alcohol.” If you have been drinking too much, especially over the holidays, you might find that by substituting water you will lose weight and save money. A standard drink typically has around 150 calories. Eliminate 600 empty calories a day and in a month you lose 5 pounds. Some drinkers say they have saved $200 during dry January by not drinking.

Chronic alcoholism also costs lives in Haywood County. In 2020, alcohol-related deaths are once again higher than suicides or overdoses in our “Deaths of Despair” tally. This year, 23 individuals have died of alcohol related causes — 16 men and 7 women, the youngest in their 30s.

January is always our go to time for new habits. In December every year I read the book, ‘The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in Life and Business’ by Charles Duhigg. It reminds me of the cues, routines and rewards of my habits, good and bad. It helps me when I’m trying to create new habits and eliminate bad ones. It’s a great book to read if you are considering Dry January.

Dry January isn’t about stopping drinking forever. It’s about getting 2021 off to the best start by taking concrete action to reset your relationship with alcohol.

Six months following January, 72% of participants reported they had “kept harmful drinking episodes down” and 4% were still not drinking. If you’re considering Dry January there’s an app called Dry Days. It’s great for positive reinforcement. What do have to lose?

Patrick Johnson is the retired Haywood County health director.

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