January is typically the season for change. The start of a new year often inspires reflection on the previous one and a flurry of resolutions. After the excesses of the ‘ber month holidays (Halloween, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s) it often feels like a good time to manifest some healthier habits; improving one’s sleep, implementing an exercise regime, and a change in diet – less sugar and caffeine; more vegetables, salads, and water; and January has also become synonymous with taking a month off the booze.
Recent years, (the global pandemic and resulting lockdown, a cost-of-living crisis, the war in the Ukraine, and conflict in the Middle East) have all resulted in a surge in stress and anxiety, which has led to large numbers of people increasing their use of alcohol and other psychoactive substances – including illegal drugs and prescription medication.
Alcohol misuse is linked to several serious illnesses – problems with mental health, liver disease and various types of cancer. It causes rifts in families and major financial troubles. It is estimated that around 600,000 people in the UK are dependent on alcohol; 200,000 children are living with an alcoholic-dependent parent; and every day, 20 people will die because of their drinking.
Over the last few years, the idea of a “Dry January” has gained massively in popularity – a period to put down the booze, look at drinking habits, the relationship held with alcohol, and a chance to give the body a rest following the extended period of excessiveness of the previous few months.
Dry January is a campaign developed and delivered by Alcohol Change UK (formerly Alcohol Concern UK) where people completely abstain from alcohol during January. The month-long campaign was started in 2013 (though the idea has been conceptualised in slightly different formats by other individuals, countries, and organisations prior to this), and over the last 11 years has grown from around 4000 people taking part in 2013, to approximately 175,000 who signed up through the website in 2023.
The campaign now has international partners in several countries, and it is estimated that 260 million Americans pledged to practice Dry January in 2023. International partners include –
• USA began in 2023 and headed by the Meharry Medical College.
• Switzerland. Initiated by an alliance of charities, including Blue Cross Switzerland, GREA and staatslabor in 2021.
• Germany launched in 2023, with Blue Cross Switzerland and Blaues Kreuz Deutschland.
• The Netherlands, Dry January is a part of the “i pass” (IK pass) campaign, an initiative of the Trimbos Institute and the Municipal Health Service.
• Norway (and Iceland) was started by a partnership of organisations Edru, IOGT, and Juvente.
• Iceland (as above)
• France. Introduced in 2020, by Federation Addiction.
In 2023, Health Canada, in conjunction with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, released new guidelines on alcohol consumption. They state that not drinking alcohol at all is best, it leads to better health, and better sleep.
They are not the first country to issue similar advice, in 2015 the Dutch Health Council recommended: “Don’t drink alcohol or drink no more than one glass daily”. The USA’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) says “Drinking too much can harm your health”, the NHS guidelines assert that there is no “safe” drinking level, and how can there be? Everyone is different, so there can’t be a standard measure, there is only low risk drinking advice.
The World Health Organization states that –
• Alcohol results in 3 million deaths every year, globally.
• 5.3% of all deaths worldwide are attributable to the harmful use of alcohol.
• 13.5% of all deaths in the age group 20-39 years are caused by alcohol.
In addition to the above, the harmful use of alcohol creates a significant social and financial drain on individuals and society. It heavily impacts on the healthcare and judicial systems.
Any excessive or risky use of alcohol can be damaging to your health, pocket, career, love life, and friendships.
Cutting back on the booze will be a goal for many people. But what if you can’t put down the drink? How do you determine whether you have a problem with alcohol? And what can you do if it looks like you have?
Some signs include –
• Drinking larger amounts or more frequently.
• Finding yourself unable to deal with stressful situations without a drink.
• Using alcohol as a coping mechanism or to numb/deal with feelings.
• Increased irritability, feeling restless, angry, or aggressive outbursts.
• Failing to keep up with responsibilities at home, or with work.
• People are noticing, or commenting – loved ones, friends, and colleagues.
• Drinking alone or being secretive around alcohol intake.
• An increase in other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
• Harsh, damaging, or dangerous consequences (accidents, arguments, violence).
Do any of the above feel like they could apply to you? Why not try our self-test here
It can be extremely difficult to acknowledge that you have a problem, some see alcohol misuse as a sign of weakness and assume that those who cannot manage their drinking simply have no self-control or will power.
This is not the case, no amount of will power is going to help a problem drinker; alcoholism is an illness and requires treatment. There are various options available to those who feel they need or want help, therapy, peer group meetings and rehab clinics being some of the most well-known and favoured.
Residential rehab may be the best option for someone who is abusing alcohol. It is an opportunity to focus on recovery. To give the body time to recuperate, and the mind a chance to have a break from the everyday stresses and strains of life. Plus, the individual will get to learn some healthy coping mechanisms to replace the alcohol they previously used as a crutch.
In addition to the treatment for alcoholism, a well-established private rehab or specialised addiction centre will use a combination of therapy models to treat any underlying and co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, or trauma.
Are you concerned about your drinking? Or maybe it is someone you love?
Here at our luxury residential rehab centre in Ibiza we can help. We offer bespoke inpatient treatments for a variety of psychological conditions including alcoholism, drug addiction, and process addictions such as food disorders, gambling, and codependency, as well as other mental health conditions such as trauma, anxiety, and depression.
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