What is Dry January?

Dry January is an annual ritual of alcohol abstinence started by the British charity Alcohol Concern in 2013. As the name suggests, this requires participants to undertake an entire month without alcohol.

However, experts now warn ‘Dry January’ may cause more harm than good over the course of 2016. Most of you will have undoubtedly came across the ‘Dry January’ campaign promoted by Alcohol Concern and backed by Public Health England.

Over two million people are thought to be currently taking part in the campaign. . On the face of it, the concept seems to be a sound one.


Dangers of Dry January

Experts at the British Medical Journal warn Dry January may encourage many drinkers to overindulge in alcohol for the remainder of 2016 as a ‘reward’ for not drinking in January.

Experts believe many people will believe they’ve ‘earned’ some sort of moral licence to drink to excess during the year because they did not drink in January. Overall, this increase in alcohol consumption could mean Dry January inflicts more harm than good.

Experts criticise “Dry January” for its “all or nothing” approach i.e. you either totally abstain from alcohol during January or you carry on drinking at the same rate as you already have. Public Health England has also come under fire for promoting the campaign.

Ian Hamilton of York University said: “The popularity of Dry January does not confirm its effectiveness. Unfortunately, this type of campaign has had no rigorous evaluation.”

Experts believe Dry January does not specifically target those who would benefit most from a month long abstinence. It is widely believed the two million people taking part in the campaign are likely to consist of those who drink the least amount of alcohol in society.

Ian Hamilton said: “Because participants select themselves, it could attract the people at lowest risk from health problems related to alcohol.”

“Because they consume less alcohol, they are also likely to find a month of abstinence relatively easy.”

Dry January is aimed at social drinkers, not heavy or dependent drinkers. Perhaps Alcohol Concern could better target this latter group who would see the most benefit from abstaining from alcohol. Alcohol Concern warns dependent drinkers against the risk of implementing ‘DIY’ alcohol detox. Instead, Alcohol Concern advises dependent drinkers to seek professional alcohol rehab treatment.

Clearly a month long abstinence from alcohol does derive many health benefits. This was proven recently by research conducted by the Royal Free Hospital in London. Here, 102 moderate drinkers abstained from drinking alcohol for a month.

After this period of abstinence, a ‘liver stiffness’ test was carried out on participants. The test revealed the liver of participants benefited from a 12.5% reduction in scarring and damage. Other health benefits included weight loss, a reduction in blood pressure, a reduction in cholesterol and improved sleep.

It is unclear how these 102 participants will benefit from this month long abstinence over the long term, and the study was criticised for a lack of follow-up data.


Alcohol and the Liver

As well as the brain, the liver is the most complex organ in the body.

Its functions include:

  • Filtering toxins from the blood
  • Aiding digestion of food
  • Keeping  blood sugar and cholesterol levels regulated
  • Fights infections and disease

The liver is very resilient and capable of regenerating itself. Each time your liver filters alcohol, some of the liver cells die. The liver can develop new cells, but prolonged alcohol misuse (drinking too much) over many years can reduce its ability to regenerate. In the long term, this can results in serious damage to your liver.


Alcohol and Its’s Damaging Effects on the Brain

The damaging effects of alcohol on the brain ultimately determines how much alcohol an individual consumes. Signs such as blurred vision, slurred speech, slow reaction times, difficulty walking, these are all factors which contribute to the effects alcohol has on the brain.

Other factors also influence how and what extent the alcohol affects the brain:

  • how often the person drinks
  • the age at which they first began drinking
  • level of education behind the matter
  • certain health risks
  • family history with alcohol
  • genetic background


Pros and Cons

Cutting alcohol from your weekly or even daily intake can result in many benefits including:

  • Weight loss
  • Better sleep
  • Improve Relationships
  • Clearer mind
  • Save you money – can become an expensive habit

Despite Dry January having multiple, some people may experience withdrawal symptoms. Some Disadvantages include:

  • Health benefits are lost when you return drinking
  • Affect your social life
  • Absence could cause worse withdrawal symptoms

Public Health England claims around 67% of people who took part in 2015’s ‘Dry January” said they had reduced their drinking six months on. Around 8% “stayed dry”, claimed Public Health England.

Click here to listen to the informative podcast published on the BMJ’s website.


Get In touch

If you are concerned whether yourself or a family member are struggling with an alcohol addiction or feel like you have recently seen your alcohol intake increase, here at Ocean Recovery we offer an alcohol rehab services which will guide you n the right direction towards a more sober future.

If you’d like to find out more information about the variety of services with provide, get in touch with one of our team today!



What can I expect from Dry January?

In the first week you may already start to notice some changes. You may find that you have more energy and better concentration. As you start to progress you may feel some other changes including better quality sleep, eating more frequently and drinking more water. You may also experience acid reflux, a burning sensation in the throat also known as heartburn. These are all normal signs due to an alcohol detox.

Is Dry January good for your Health?

Dry January might be a helpful way recognise your control over your drinking, and could have some short-term benefits (a lot of people report sleeping better), but it’s unlikely to have major long-term health benefits in itself.








John Gillen - Author - Last updated: January 13, 2022

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.