Giving up booze for Dry January reaps benefits months later, study finds

Interested in sleeping better, feeling better, gaining energy, losing weight, having better skin and concentration skills, and saving money by doing just one thing this new year?

That one thing, which is becoming increasingly popular in the U.K. since it was introduced five years ago, gave some of the participants all that and more, according to a new study from the University of Sussex.

The simple act was giving up booze for a month, Dry January. Still interested?

Researchers found participants reported they regained control over their drinking for months later and were still drinking less in late summer.

The study followed 800 people who went dry for January 2018 and found the average number of days they were drinking in August dropped to 3.3 from 4.3 a week and the average number of drinks per day also dropped, as did the frequency of being drunk throughout the month, to 2.1 times from 3.4 times on average.

“These changes in alcohol consumption have also been seen in the participants who didn’t manage to stay alcohol-free for the whole month, although they are a bit smaller,” said psychology researcher Richard de Visser.

The University of Sussex study showed that in August, between about 70 and 80 per cent of the participants reported an improved relationship with drinking, being more in control and learning more about when and why they drink, and discovering they didn’t need a drink to enjoy themselves.

Between about half to more than two-thirds also reported generally improved health, sleep, energy, weight control, concentration and skin.

More than 2,800 respondents who registered for Dry January completed the online survey in January 2018, about 1,700 in February and 800 in August. The results are based on the respondents’ voluntary responses, not on scientific research.

But the head of the non-profit Alcohol Change U.K., which said it was expecting one in 10 Britons who drink, or 4.2 million people, to do Dry January this year in Britain, said participating can change lives by making people healthier and happier.

A Vancouver psychologist who specializes in counselling those with substance abuse said drinkers with a strong addiction to alcohol shouldn’t try to quit without medical supervision because of the possibility of seizures or other dangerous side effects.

But a chance to break from regular alcohol consumption could be useful in helping drinkers get honest about their use, especially if they’re not sure if their drinking is moderate or not, said West Vancouver psychologist Dr. Barbara Harris.

“There’s a saying (in recovery circles), that people who don’t have a drinking problem don’t wonder, ‘Oh, do I have a drinking problem?’ ” she said. “If you’re thinking you should cut back, you may have some sort of a problem that you should be looking at.”

Meanwhile, Canadians who missed or failed at the chance to quit smoking Jan. 1 will get another shot during National Non-Smoking Week, Jan. 20 to 26, which includes Weedless Wednesday, Jan. 23, and has been held every year since 1977.

Smoking rates among Canadians have been dropping over past decades, but health officials are concerned about the increasing practice of vaping, which may or may not include the inhalation of nicotine.

Vaping can be used to safely wean cigarette smokers off the habit, but the U.S. food and drug administration released statistics late last year that showed vaping use among teens was up 80 per cent in 2018 over 2017.

Health Canada reported that in 2017 electronic cigarette use was up marginally in 2017 over 2015 for users over 15, the most current statistics provided by the B.C. Lung Association.

It also showed among past 30-day e-cigarette users that 65 per cent were smokers, 20 per cent former smokers and 15 per cent never smokers, and of those never-smokers, 58 per cent were aged 15 to 19.

Under 30 per cent of past-30-day users had used tobacco-flavoured e-cigarettes, while a majority 24 and under were using fruit flavours. However, 64 per cent of Canadians in 2017 who had never tried an e-cigarette reported the last one they used contained nicotine.

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