Expert advice on how to succeed this dry January

Recent research found that 36% of adults have increased their alcohol consumption during this year’s lockdowns and with Dry January around the corner, many people will be looking to reduce their alcohol intake.

More than four million people aged over 50 are binge are also drinking once a week, according new research from drug, alcohol and mental health charity We Are With You – which has a service in Lambeth.

Mike Delaney, Clinical Director and one of the UK’s leading authorities in addiction treatment at Delamere Health Ltd, said: “For an increasing number of people, alcohol is used to reduce stress or as a distraction from uncomfortable feelings.

“During the pandemic, we spent more time at home than ever before, which served to magnify stressors at home and from wider global events impacting our daily lives.

“Also for a lot of people, their daily structure is completely different. Furlough left many workers with more spare time, which has led to many filling the void left by work with alcohol.

“The government has recommended alcohol intake levels which are supposed to be “safe” for our bodies. Anything above that becomes toxic and begins to impact every organ in the body.

“Sleep patterns deteriorate, kidney and liver function can be impaired, the digestive system and absorption of nutrition are affected, including irritation of the bowel and intestine.

“Mentally, anxiety and agitation can become major problems and the desire to have just ‘one more’ in order to feel less ‘stressed’ can lead to wider problems.

“Tapering off or committing to Dry January or Sober October allows the body to have a rest and to rejuvenate its systems before the alcohol is re-introduced.

“I always recommend reducing alcohol intake slowly, especially if you have been drinking heavily for a consistent period of time.

“Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can be very severe and can include seizures in some cases.

“Rather than a sudden stop, alcohol intake should be tapered off, and if there are any worrying side-effects it is important to seek the help of a medical professional.”


 Mike Delaney’s tips for avoiding a tipple over the New Year

Follow the safer drinking medical recommendations

The Chief Medical Officers low-risk drinking guidelines state that regardless of age or gender, you should consume no more than 14 alcoholic units a week and that these units should be spread out evenly over seven days.

To put this in real terms, 14 units is the equivalent to 6 pints of standard 4% lager, 6 standard glasses of 13% abv wine or 14 shots of a spirit.

If you follow the safer drinking medical recommendations, you can still enjoy alcohol but without the risks associated with drinking too much.

Try to incorporate alcohol-free days over the in the run-up to the new year period.

Over Christmas and New year there always seems an ‘excuse’ or ‘reason’ to have a drink every day.

It is important to have alcohol free days to give your liver a rest and allow your body to flush out alcohol’s toxins.

Drinking daily, especially when more than a couple of units, causes your liver to work less efficiently. The more alcohol you consume the bigger the toll it will take on your body resulting in you feeling sluggish and suffering from low mood.

Be aware of the alcohol content in the foods you consume. 

Traditionally alcohol is added to many party foods such as chocolate, sauces, desserts and even gravy. Whilst the alcoholic content is usually quite low, combining these foods with alcoholic drinks soon makes the units stack up

Avoid drinking on an empty stomach.

Eating a decent meal before drinking will slow down the absorption of alcohol, you will also be inclined to drink less if your stomach is already full.

Alcoholic drinks such as wine and spirits are very acidic and can cause harm to your stomach’s lining when consumed on an empty stomach or in large amounts.

Opt for low alcohol or alcohol-free drinks

Instead of automatically reaching for whatever alcoholic drink is available to feel part of the celebrations, try some mocktails(alcohol-free cocktails).

There are many kits and recipes out there where you can experiment. Make it fun by challenging the whole family to produce the tastiest mocktail.

This will take the focus off alcohol and you may even find a drink that you prefer over alcoholic beverages.

Take steps to ensure your safety whilst drinking.

When we drink alcohol, our inhibitions and sense of judgement are impaired.

This can easily lead to making spur of the moment decisions which are later regretted. If you are going out drinking, make sure that someone knows where you are, what time to expect you back and that you have pre-arranged a safe mode of transport home.

This applies to both men and women, both sexes are very vulnerable whilst under the influence of alcohol.

BYOSD (Bring your own soft drink) 

If you have an NYE family Zoom party lined up, bring your own soft drink. You can then either stick to drinking these or alternate between alcoholic drinks.

Don’t rely on others to provide you with an alternative to alcohol, it is always best to be prepared and take your own.

If you are worried family will pressurise you into drinking more than you would like, it is very unlikely that they will even notice or care if you are alternating or drinking a zero alcohol

Avoid stocking up on alcohol

Traditionally many people stock up on vast amounts of alcohol just before the festive period to have a selection of different alcoholic drinks to offer guests.

The risk that comes with this is that there will be a constant supply of alcohol in your home that will be all too easy to drink.

You are also much more likely to mix your drinks which can lead to losing control of the amount of alcohol you consume.

Instead have a selection of drinks that are of standard strength in units and a selection of non-alcoholic drinks that you can alternate with.

More advice from Mike Delaney is available here.


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