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Dry January can be a springboard to reduce your drinking

County Durham - Dry January 2020

County Durham - Dry January 2020

Posted 27/01/20

Balance the North East Alcohol Office is encouraging drinkers who’ve taken part in Dry January to use the experience to help reduce their drinking all-year-round.

Around one in 10 drinkers planned to go alcohol-free for Dry January 2020 but the end of the month is approaching. Research has found on average, people who complete Dry January are still drinking less six months on, as well as feeling other benefits like lower blood pressure, better sleep and losing weight .

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “Dry January is becoming increasingly popular. As well as immediate benefits, taking time off alcohol can also help people re-set their relationship with alcohol and many people find they are still drinking less even six months later.

“If you’ve completed the month, or even just cut down, our message is that February can be about continuing those healthier habits rather than potentially reverting to a pattern of regular drinking. Most people feel a sense of pride and achievement and feel a lot fitter and healthier – that is something worth hanging on to.”

A month off alcohol has a lot of benefits: according to research published in 2018, conducted by the Royal Free Hospital and published in the British Medical Journal. It found that a month off:
• lowers blood pressure
• reduces diabetes risk
• lowers cholesterol
• reduces levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood

Last year County Durham had the highest number of users of the Dry January app of any area in the country and with the North East having the highest rate of sign ups. Durham County Council has joined forces with Balance again to highlight the benefits of an alcohol-free month and is supporting the campaign as part of the Better Health at Work scheme.

Councillor Lucy Hovvels MBE, Durham County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult and Health Services, said: “We all start the New Year with the best of intentions but sometimes it can be hard to stick to resolutions as the weeks pass by. If you have managed to cut out or reduce the amount of alcohol you have drunk this month, congratulations. This is a fantastic achievement and I’m sure you are already noticing the health and financial benefits of doing so. January may be nearly over, but that does not mean we have to stop making healthy choices when it comes to alcohol. With Balance’s help, we can continue to reap the rewards of Dry January throughout the year.”

One Durham County Council member of staff taking part is Jane Sunter, who said: “I have taken part in Dry January previously – with the caveat that I would take a few days off for special occasions. This year I challenged myself to go the whole month without alcohol. My main motivation was to lose weight and cutting out alcohol has helped with my weight loss programme. As I’m sure many women of a certain age can also relate to, I’m currently going through the menopause, with all the challenges that brings with it. I don’t drink during the week, but I have a couple of glasses of wine on a Friday night and drink more when I socialise with friends at the weekend. I find that drinking exacerbates some of the symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats and insomnia. Not drinking through January has eased some of these symptoms.

“As a single parent of two teenage children, I also think it’s important to set a good example around alcohol for them. My 16-year-old is starting to go to parties and I wanted him to recognise that you don’t need to have a drink to have a good time. I’m aware of the link between alcohol and cancer, and it’s important to me to do what I can to reduce the risk. Dry January has helped to kick start a better relationship with alcohol and giving me a fresh start to 2020.

“Quite a few of my friends and colleagues have also taken part in Dry January. What I’ve always emphasised is that anything people can do to cut back, is better than not taking part at all. Even if you have setbacks or a few days off from the challenge, don’t beat yourself up. Of course, I’ve expected there to be challenges along the way – like social occasions and Friday night drinks – but focusing on where I want to get to, has kept me motivated. I’m already doing more exercise, going to the gym and taking part in lunchtime walks at work. All round I’m feeling much healthier.

Try Dry: the Dry January app is a free way to track units, money and calories saved, plus many more features from reducing alcohol all year around. Alcohol Change, the charity behind the national initiative, runs the website with blogs, tips and tricks from experts and others taking part.

Last year, the North East saw the highest rates of signups for Dry January in the country. Research shows that Dry January participants are still drinking less six months after the challenge and Balance is encouraging people who have taken part to keep going into February and take more days off from drinking during the week.

*If you drink very heavily or regularly Dry January may not be for you, so check with your GP or local alcohol service before starting. Where an individual is experiencing physical symptoms when they stop drinking (which may include but are not limited to: shakes, sweating, restlessness, insomnia, nausea, stomach cramps or hallucinations) they should seek medical help urgently.