Staff Writer

We’re two weeks into January and “Dry January” participants are also marking two weeks into a temporary break from alcohol.

Those participating in Dry January do not consume alcohol for the month, then see what changes they notice in their physical and emotional health.

Dry January began in the United Kingdom, but has spread to the United States, with several U.S. media outlets reporting on it this year and last.

The concept began after Emily Robinson signed up to run her first half-marathon in February 2011. To make the training easier, she decided to give up alcohol in January and found that she lost weight, slept better and felt more energetic, according to the Alcohol Change UK website.

Robinson began working for the organization the following year, and after many conversations about “the benefits of having a break from drinking — especially after Christmas,” the first official Dry January was observed in 2013. A researcher from the University of Sussex found that six months afterward, “seven out of 10 people have continued to drink less riskily than before,” the website states.

The Dry January concept continued to grow and last year, more than 4 million people participated in the United Kingdom, according to the website.

Alcohol Change UK is a British nonprofit which states on its webpage that alcohol is a part of many people’s lives and is “legal, socially acceptable, even encouraged.” At the same time, alcohol consumption can cause harm to people’s health, and alcohol-related violence, as well as drunken driving, are concerns, the site states. The organization states that it is “not anti-alcohol,” but would like to see change.

“We are for a future in which people drink as a conscious choice, not a default,” the organization states.

And one of its goals is to “get people thinking and talking openly about alcohol to create more informed and balanced drinking cultures across the UK, with alcohol playing a less central role.”

The Chicago Tribune, in a story last week, reported that three participants all said they noticed they slept better when they quit drinking.

Dr. Stephanie Gorka, associate director at the University of Illinois at Chicago Recovery Clinic, told the Tribune she generally thought favorably of Dry January, but that people shouldn’t expect it to produce miracle results. And she cautioned that anyone who thinks they might be alcohol-dependent should consult a doctor, rather than quitting suddenly.

Zach Thomas, director of wellness and education for the Hancock County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board, said low-risk drinking guidelines state that adults should consume no more than one drink per hour, and no more than three drinks on any given day. (One drink is equivalent to a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.)

“Consuming more than this is considered high-risk, and individuals may want to evaluate their drinking habits,” he said.

And, “If an individual is attempting to abstain from alcohol and discover that they are constantly thinking about drinking/not drinking, this may indicate that they have a more serious problem than overindulging during the holidays,” Thomas said.

Century Health, which operates an alcoholism treatment program, can be reached at 419-425-5050. The local toll-free crisis hotline number is 888-936-7116, and people can also dial 211 with questions.

Information on times for support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery appear regularly in The Courier’s community calendar.

Arthurs: 419-427-8494
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Twitter: @swarthurs