Dry January: A Month of Sobriety on the Prevention Forecast

Prevention Forecast: A Dry January in 2023

Every New Year brings about an opportunity for a fresh new start. Whether it’s emotionally, mentally,  financially, spiritually, or physically, many of us use January as an opportunity to set and work towards goals for some component of our health. Something about the frost-bitten atmosphere of the first 31 calendar days inspires us to make positive changes in our lives and we find ourselves a little more motivated, committed, and accountable for achieving self-progress. Over the last decade though, something new has been buzzing on the resolution radar that has piqued the interest of the masses and sparked questions among the scientific community. Could something as simple as going alcohol-free for one month have such a complex impact on your family’s health? This month we’ll PEER review studies on the science behind the ways that your whole family benefits when you participate in Dry January. 

What’s All the Buzz About?

Dry January is a challenge to abstain from alcohol for one entire month. What began in 2012 as a public health campaign by the British organization, Alcohol Change UK, is now an evidence-supported strategy across the globe for improving individual health. Like alcohol, many substance addictions can develop based on factors of quantity (how much) and frequency (how often) of use. That’s why Tommie Trevino, a substance use counselor of UC Davis Health, notes that a month of sobriety offers a chance to reflect on one’s relationship with alcohol use (Coons, 2023). Additionally, an inability to abstain for 30 days might be a sign of addiction or trouble with unhealthy drinking habits (Coons, 2023). 

While this could unfortunately be a challenge that the young adults in your life face, it turns out that poor drinking habits in parents/guardians may have harmful effects on teen health as well. 

A PEERs and Parents Review 

In 2018, scientists at The Population Research Center within the University of Texas at Austin investigated the potential correlation between adolescent drinking behaviors and those of their school peers and their parents (Olson & Crosno, 2018). They based their hypothesis on psychological theories of stress and substance use susceptibility and sought to discover how contributing factors influenced teen drinking. 

This study utilized data from previously administered student surveys distributed in 3 consecutive waves at 132 middle schools across the nation to create a sample that was representative of the U.S. population (Olson & Crosno, 2018). There are numerous studies conducted nationally on data that is collected in a similar fashion, including the Illinois Youth Survey (IYS) that is distributed right here in your own community and drives much of our prevention efforts at PEER. 

What the researchers discovered was entirely unpredicted. They found that for adolescents whose parents did not have a recent history of binge-drinking, there was no correlation between their drinking and that of their peers. In other words, they were not highly influenced by those around them whether their peers were choosing to or not to drink (Olson & Crosno, 2018). 

However, for those that reported parents with a recent binge-drinking history, there was a higher rate of self-reported drinking influenced by peers (Olson & Crosno, 2018). The publication notes, 

“Adolescents with binge-drinking parents were more susceptible than other youth to what appeared to be negative influences of drinking among peers.” 

The Teen Scene

Binge-drinking behavior among teens can be extremely dangerous. While the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both declare underage drinking to be a major public health crisis in the United States, excessive drinking poses immediate threats to teen health. 

According to the CDC, those that drink as teens are more likely to binge-drink, an unhealthy behavior that is linked to 3,900 deaths each year. Teens that drink are more likely to experience difficulty in school, disruption in growth and development, physical and sexual violence, multi-substance misuse, and continued binge-drinking as an adult (CDC). 

Organizations around the country have dedicated numerous resources to developing resources for parents to identify the signs, spark healthy prevention discussions, and allocate professional help when needed. However, Olson & Crosno, 2018 shows that perhaps the most influential method for preventing teen binge-drinking is by demonstrating a healthy, responsible relationship with alcohol as an adult. 

The influence of this intentional action could help delay the onset of alcohol use until the young adults in your life are old enough to make similar healthy decisions and habits for themselves.

Why Go Dry?

Still not convinced? Let’s talk about the additional benefits of Dry January. 

Recent Dry January participants have identified abounding benefits including weight loss, improved sleep and energy, and a reduction in blood pressure, cholesterol, and levels of (Mehta, G., et al., 2018). Several participants also reported a positive change in their diet, increased exercise, and better self-rated overall health even up to 6 months after participation (de Terne, 2022)!

A Sample of Sobriety

Dry January can be a great start for those that are sober-curious, but how does it impact health and consumption the remaining 11 months? Remember, 30 days of sobriety is just a start on monitoring your alcohol habits and that it’s important to reach out to health professionals when or if you need help. 

It might also not be possible for you to jump into a dry month right away, and that’s okay, too. Alcohol addiction can be one of the hardest challenges to overcome, and quitting cold turkey could cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms (Rethinking Drinking). One strategy to consider is working your way up to it by perhaps participating in a damp January instead, minimizing the number of drinks you consume on a weekly basis rather than coming to a complete stop. Maybe then you can try giving Dry February a shot.

Resources and Support

If you or your teen is looking for support on maintaining sobriety, there are several resources to help keep you on track. Many venues, restaurants, and sporting events that have for generations been the hubs of alcohol consumption now offer sober sections and an abundant mocktail selection instead.

Other tips to consider are journaling and keeping a log of your progress and your wellness improvements to serve as a reminder of how your actions are improving your health. It may also be beneficial to lean on a consistent network of support that can oftentimes include the help of healthcare and mental health professionals. Check out the hyperlinks in this blog for quick resources!

If you or someone you know could benefit from the resources offered by PEER Services, please reach out to us at contact@peerservices.org

Sources Cited

1. Coons, C. Jan. 4, 2023. “Dry January: Giving up alcohol can mean better sleep, weight loss and more energy.” UCDavis Health. Internal Medicine. https://health.ucdavis.edu/news/headlines/dry-january-giving-up-alcohol-can-mean-better-sleep-weight-loss-and-more-energy/2023/01. 2. Olson, J. Crosnoe, R. Feb. 28, 2018. “The Interplay of Peer, Parent, and Adolescent Drinking.” University of Texas at Austin. PMC 2019. Accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326588/#!po=44.1176 doi: 10.1111/ssqu.12497. 3. Solan, M. 2022. “Thinking of Trying Dry January? Steps for Success” Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Men’s Health Watch. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/thinking-of-trying-dry-january-steps-for-success-202201032662 4. Mehta G, Macdonald S, Cronberg A., et al. Short-term abstinence from alcohol and changes in cardiovascular risk factors, liver function tests and cancer-related growth factors: a prospective observational study. BMJ Open 2018;8:e020673. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020673. Accessed from https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/5/e020673 5. de Terne, J., et al. 2022. One-month alcohol abstinence national campaigns: a scoping review of the harm reduction benefits. BMC. Harm Reduction Journal. 2022; 19: 24. doi: 10.1186/s12954-022-00603-x. Accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8895623/#__ffn_sectitle 6. Rethinking Drinking. “To Quit or Cut Down.” https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/Thinking-about-a-change/Its-up-to-you/To-Cut-Down-Or-To-Quit.aspx

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