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In the UK, around 4.2 million people said they plan to stay away from drinking alcohol in January – and Dry's official campaign in January aims to to "restore" people's relationship with alcohol.
So, does a month of alcohol consumption help people to adopt new habits or risk causing a frenzy in February?
Some studies, mainly in rats, seem to support the idea that a "dry" month leads to excessive consumption of alcohol.
In one study, rats were given alcohol for a period of time before they were suddenly eliminated. When they were given alcohol again, the rats drank more.
The researchers, however, did not find the same effect in humans when they studied US military recruits forced to abstain from alcohol during their initial training.
Once recruits were able to drink again, they drank the same amount or less on average – although the biggest drinkers in the beginning were the most likely to drink more after abstaining.
These two examples look at what could happen when you force someone to give up alcohol. But what about periods of voluntary abstinence? Does choosing to do something have a psychological effect?
In 2014, researchers from the University of Sussex collaborated with the charity Alcohol Change UK (which runs the official Dry January campaign) to measure its success. Since then, they have conducted an evaluation of the campaign each year.
When the first study was released, Emily Robinson, director of the charity that launched the campaign at the time, said, "The long-term effects of Dry January have already been questioned. are asked if a month without alcohol would be a cause of bulimia- drink once February comes around. "
But, she says, no such effects have been found.
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The biggest drinkers at the start were the most likely to drink more after trying Dry Jan
This was also the conclusion of the team's latest report: 800 respondents who quit alcohol in January 2018 drank even less in August than they had started before the start of the challenge , based on units consumed and days of consumption.
The lead researcher, Dr. Richard de Visser, said that half of those polled drank the same amount afterwards, 40% less and the remaining 10% more than before.
Those who drank the most were usually those who did not arrive at the end of the month.
Dr. de Visser has uncovered several other health benefits, including weight loss and improved sleep.
The problem is that this study is self-selected, which means that the results are not necessarily representative of the entire population.
& # 39; Missing persons
The dropout rate was also very high: 2,800 people joined the study, but at the August follow-up, there were only 800 people left.
Researchers have attempted to adapt to this situation by looking for "missing" people in the final sample: more men than women dropped out of school, as did a greater number of excessive drinkers.
However, even if you can adapt to gender and consumer habits, it is more difficult to adapt to less tangible things such as the degree of motivation and commitment of someone.
In this case, the researchers may have drawn conclusions about the effects of Dry January on alcohol consumption by consulting a group of particularly dedicated individuals – who may not reflect the reaction of the general population.
The University of Sussex is planning further research in which a representative sample of the general population will be studied.
To get an idea of what is going on in the general population, we could look at the sale of alcohol throughout the year. This is not a perfect measure, because we do not know for sure that alcohol is drunk the same month it was bought.
Tax data from the UK tax authorities (HM Revenue and Customs) show a sharp rise in sales in December, followed by a sharp decline in January. Sales continue to fall in February, before returning to their pre – December level in March.
Sales during the rest of the year are relatively consistent.
There is little controversy over the health benefits of reducing alcohol consumption (although people addicted to alcohol should seek the help of a professional before retiring. ). But in terms of whether trying to consume a non-alcoholic month helps reduce overall alcohol consumption, the evidence is still patchy.
The biggest drinkers are the least likely to cross the month and those who do not drink until the end are more likely to drink more.
But for the biggest drinkers who manage to get out and end up drinking less, maybe unsurprisingly, they also get the most benefit.
They further reduce their alcohol consumption and see greater health benefits.
Researchers at the University of Sussex who evaluated the study point out that this challenge is not suitable for people with alcohol dependence problems.
Maddy Lawson, of Alcohol Change UK, said, "A month without alcohol is safe for the vast majority of people, including the biggest drinkers, but if you drink a lot or regularly, you may be physically dependent on alcohol. alcohol and, in this case, need more support to reduce. "
For people who are not in this category, but who tend to consume excessively and to "refrain", some experts suggest that it might be best to spend at least two days dry per week throughout the year.
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