Why the Dry January pledge to quit alcohol is not to be scoffed at

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After a festive season of indulgence, the idea of stumbling into the New Year with a commitment to Dry January seems a pretty appealing one.

The annual drive, developed by the Alcohol Concern charity and Public Health England, is once again urging people to make a healthy start to the year by going the month of January without alcohol – but the campaign has its critics.

One national newspaper columnist even went as far as saying that the idea of Dry January or Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon creates a “martyr mentality” as those who try to quit see it as something worthy of “fanfare” and sponsorship.

But there is no doubting the health benefits of giving the body a break from alcohol after a period in which many of us have overindulged. Brits drink 41 per cent more in December than in any other month.

After all, alcohol is the leading cause of preventable ill health and death in 15 to 49 year olds and is a factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including liver disease, a number of cancers and depression.

For some, overdoing it at Christmas and New Year can be a symptom of a deeper problem. So signing up to Dry January, whether you raise money and publicise it or not, can be a welcome reminder of how well you can feel being alcohol-free.

Dr Gordon Sinclair, clinical chair at NHS Leeds West Clinical Commissioning Group, is calling on people to get involved.

He said: “Not everyone that drinks will develop a drinking problem but after the festive period, and possible over indulgence over Christmas, this is a great opportunity to reset your drinking habits and give your liver a break.”

Dr Sinclair added that the case for starting 2016 without alcohol is also aided by the fact it is high in calories, with a standard glass of wine containing as many calories as a piece of chocolate.

Drinking alcohol can become central to people’s social lives, which for some ignites addiction. In fact a poll of 4000 Brits revealed that 21 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 24 felt their drinking was a problem in April last year.

For one recovering Leeds alcoholic, who wished only to be referred to as Dean, drinking helped him overcome social anxiety in his youth but escalated to him trying to take his own life three times.

“Alcoholism makes people ill and it clouds the judgment into making people think what they are doing is normal,” he said.

Last year two million people cut down drinking alcohol for Dry January. For further information visit dryjanuary.org.uk. Anyone concerned about their own or a friend’s drinking should visit forwardleeds.co.uk.

Why should you go dry this month?

Dry January participants often report losing weight, sleeping better, having more energy, clearer skin and making huge savings.

On top of the health and financial benefits, the money you donate will help Alcohol Concern, the charity dedicated to tackling the harm caused by alcohol to families.

The NHS recommends that men should not regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol a day, while women should not regularly drink more than two to three units per day.