Have you been thinking about cutting back on your alcohol consumption? We know that alcohol use skyrocketed during the pandemic. Whether it was virtual happy hours or the added stress of homeschooling and working from home, alcohol use became a way to cope with the sudden shift in our daily lives. Now that things are returning to a more normalized pace, holidays aside, experts are finding that our mental health, as well as our alcohol consumption, has remained at heightened levels.
A study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism showed that there was a 39 percent increase in alcohol consumption from February 2020 to November 2020 with a 30 percent increase in binge drinking. Earlier this year, experts at Massachusetts General and Harvard Medical School estimated that this increase in drinking during the pandemic will result in 8,000 additional deaths from alcohol-related liver diseases, 18,700 cases of liver failure and 1,000 cases of liver cancer by 2040. (https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2022/01/covid-related-drinking-linked-to-rise-in-liver-disease/) Alcohol use also remains among the leading causes of preventable death here in the United States. (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/alcohol-caused-one-in-eight-deaths-of-working-age-us-adults-180981089/)
Dry January isn’t new. It got its start in the UK in 2013 and since then, it has become an increasingly more common practice for people wanting to start the year with healthier habits. Why January? Why not another month? Many of us like to set goals for the new year. And for some whose habits haven’t moderated since the pandemic, this may be a good way to reassess your relationship with alcohol. There may be some benefits associated with taking a hiatus from alcohol, such as improved sleep and weight loss along with saving some money, but also keep in mind that taking one month off from drinking isn’t going to magically heal your body or automatically change your habits once February rolls around.
So, is it right for you? Maybe. Are there other options? Yes. There are plenty of other ways to moderate your drinking, including not drinking during the week or consistently limiting yourself to one drink per day. Keep in mind that the recommended guidelines for moderate drinking are 2 drinks or less per day for men and one drink per day or less if you are female. ( https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm) It is important to note that if you have been drinking more than three or four drinks per night, for any length of time, you may be at risk of alcohol withdrawal issues if you quit cold turkey. Dry January is not meant to be a detox for anyone with an alcohol use disorder.
If you do decide to re-evaluate your drinking, whether through Dry January or some other form of moderation, remember to be kind to yourself. Actively work on finding healthier ways to manage stress or unwind after work. Change up your routines. Explore non-alcoholic drink options, including drinking more water. Your skin and your body will thank you, especially during the winter months. And, if you find that you are struggling or need some support to help you manage your alcohol use, please contact us at 21st Century EAP.