April 2020 – Prevention Talk Alcohol Awareness

Prevention Talk:  April  2020

Helen M. Exum, BS, Senior Prevention Educator

Twin County Recovery Services, Inc.

April 7, 2020

Striking a Balance   

April is “National Alcohol Awareness Month.”?  Why not let this year be the year that each of us spends time reflecting on our personal relationship with alcohol? Think about what we should be aware of, and how aware we really are. A quick inventory of our use of alcohol and the effects it has on our lives might shed some light on issues we ordinarily ignore or are unaware of. Awareness requires us to ask ourselves a few simple questions about the role alcohol plays in our lives. Consider asking:  How important is alcohol in my life?  How often do I drink?  How many drinks do I have?  Has alcohol adversely affected my personal, work, or social life?  The answers to these questions can motivate us to reach out for help with any problems that may exist. It’s important to remember that millions of people struggle with alcohol use disorder, and millions fall in the low and high- risk categories of use. This year let’s focus on reducing alcohol consumption. What can we do about reducing the harm from alcohol? Can we strike a balance between abstinence and excess? The word is moderation.             

Seven years ago, in Britain Alcohol Change UK introduced “Dry January”. This initiative challenged the public to reduce alcohol consumption by abstaining from alcohol use throughout the month of January. The concept caught on big time. Millions participate. Like any great idea, Dry January has migrated across the Atlantic to our shores where alcohol weary people embraced the new trend. Health conscious Americans realizing the health benefits quickly embraced the concept. Now designated” Dry Moths” are part of the American landscape. Recently Public Health England instituted an initiative for dry weekdays in the hopes of striking a balance and avoiding the potential of over drinking after the dry month. The rest is history. Sober Bars and buzz- free pop-up parties have appeared major cities, around the county. According to the New York Post, “NYC’s sober bar scene is a ‘hip’ oasis for booze-free fun”. People who chose to abstain or to drink moderately, want and deserve to have fun in a cool environment. Non-drinkers want to feel comfortable about ordering a seltzer or a coke. Herbal bars serving teas and botanical tinctures offer other options. On the Lower East Side in NYC a Karaoke lounge offers both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.  Thanks to creativity and innovation Mocktails have arrived on the scene. These delicious concoctions are found on menus in bars serving both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Alcohol -free options has spurred the creation of an entirely new industry. There’s a lesson to be learned from this experiment.  People are capable of being social while limiting amounts of or completely abstaining from alcohol.  

 Dr. Richard Visser, from the University of Sussex researched the program over the last seven years and  found:  Participants over the year following their dry January continued to maintain a reduced level of alcohol even six months after the end of the program. A quarter of those drinking at “harmful” levels before the campaign drank in “low” risk category afterward.  Overall health was improved. Cancer markers, cholesterol, blood sugar levels, blood pressure were lowered. Liver functions improved. People reported weight loss and saving substantial amounts of money. Others noticed higher energy levels, sleeping better and feeling healthier in general. By 2018 researchers at the University of Sussex determined that Dry January helps people drink more healthily year-round. These finding are supported by similar research here in the US.  As one blogger wrote, “Turns out I didn’t need as much alcohol as I thought”.  (Unknown)