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How Dry January Can Be a Gateway to Addiction Recovery

By Jacqueline Hensler
Medically Reviewed by Arpan Parikh, MD, MBA on August 11, 2021
Committing to one month without drinking alcohol is a trend called Dry January. This popular health movement could help you start your journey to addiction recovery.

The concept of abstaining from alcohol for a specific duration isn’t a new concept. For someone who wishes to hit the reset button or has had a troubled relationship with alcohol, taking part in a time out from alcohol can be a gateway to addiction recovery. 

What Is Dry January? 

Dry January is an idea that grew from a health and wellness trend to encourage people to start the New Year alcohol-free for the entire month. It’s framed in a way that encourages participants to re-examine their relationship with alcohol and make healthier choices. Dry January might appeal to people who are looking to increase their physical and mental health and reap the benefits of sobriety.

“Absolutely anyone who is interested in cutting back on their drinking for any reason is a candidate for Dry January,” Georgia Gaveras, DO, psychiatrist, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “For some people for whom their habits have been questionable, this could be a good time to try out the ‘I can stop drinking whenever I want’ assertion,” Gaveras says. 

Signs You May Have a Problem 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says moderate drinking for women is one daily drink, and for men, it is two daily drinks. Consuming alcohol above these limits places you in an excessive/heavy drinking range, which may take both a physical and mental toll. According to the CDC, some signs that you may have a problem with drinking are if alcohol interferes in your life through your relationships, school, social activities, or in how you think and feel. 

“Intervening with unhealthy alcohol consumption patterns before they escalate to problematic or addictive behavior is recommended,” Samantha Lookatch, PhD, a psychologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, tells WebMD Connect to Care. 

Someone with severe alcohol use disorder and individuals who may be physically dependent on alcohol should seek medical advice for treatment for addiction before attempting Dry January. “Quitting cold turkey from alcohol can produce withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening, and stopping drinking may necessitate medical intervention or supervision,” Lookatch says.  

Health Benefits of Sobriety 

Anyone can benefit from a sober living lifestyle which may result in physical, mental, and social benefits. 

According to Lookatch, the physical and mental benefits of sobriety include:

  • Weight loss
  • Better insulin processing
  • Improved sleep with increased energy levels and decreased fatigue 
  • Better immune functioning and support 
  • Lowered blood pressure and risk of hypertension 
  • Improved mood with less agitation, irritability, and depression 
  • Mental sharpness and flexibility 
  • Insight and understanding into your own coping patterns
  • Improved relationships

Perhaps one of the greatest payoffs of participating in Dry January “could lead to longer-term changes in your drinking patterns, which can extend these benefits past the month of January,” Lookatch says. 

Don’t Wait. Get Help Now.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.

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