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New Year, New You? Why not try a 'Dry January'

Doctors say it can provide health benefits
Alcohol tax
Posted at 4:00 PM, Dec 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-31 17:01:13-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As you prepare to make those New Year's resolutions, some health experts suggest trying what's referred to as "Dry January."

It's exactly what it sounds like, a pledge to give up drinking for one month.

And, as one addiction specialist explains, it can not only make you feel better but can also be a great experiment to see if you're relying on alcohol more than you think.

During the pandemic, one study by the RAND Corporation found alcohol use in adults rose by 14%, with women seeing a 41% increase in heavy drinking.

Doctor Doug Burgess, medical director of addiction services at University Health, says if you've found yourself indulging more often, the new year could be the perfect time to try cutting back.

"I think having a period of time where you don’t drink allows people to determine how big or little a role alcohol is playing in their life," Burgess explained.

He says not only will it give you some insight into your drinking habits, but there are also real health benefits, too — including sleeping better.

"Oftentimes when people drink alcohol, they feel like they sleep well, but they wake the next morning to feeling really groggy, tired, not refreshed," he said.

Burgess also notes studies of Dry January show 50% of participants experienced some degree of weight loss.

But, what if you set out with the best of intentions and fall off the wagon?

Burgess says that's okay. It's progress, not perfection.

"Sometimes we don’t anticipate how hard it will be till after we kind of get into it. But, any reduction is an improvement," Burgess said.

And, if it is harder than you anticipated, Burgess says don't be afraid to reach out for help, whether that's your primary care doctor, a substance abuse specialist, a counselor, or a community support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Again, health experts say you don't have to have a drinking problem to decide to take a month off from drinking.

As for how much is considered "too much" when it comes to drinking, the current guidelines in the United States allow for one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.