(NEXSTAR) – After weeks of holiday treats, feasts and libations, some swear off alcohol entirely to start the year, a military march into 31 days of sobriety known as dry January. But what is a “damp” January?
“Well, damp January just means it’s a little less severe of an approach,” Shara Turner, an addiction expert and clinical director of Sabina Recovery in Tucson, Arizona, told Nexstar’s WOWK. “Maybe just cutting back a little bit, maybe just drinking on the weekends, just not completely going dry.”
While experts say cutting back on alcohol can have a number of health benefits, Turner adds that it’s important to look at one’s motivations when it comes to the monthlong challenge.
“If you’re considering leaving alcohol behind, there might be a deeper issue or problem, and I always like to think that if you can’t go a whole month without an alcoholic drink, there just might be another issue you need to look at,” Turner said. “I would certainly give it a shot if it doesn’t work out and you’re having a hard time even cutting down. Again that’s just a really big opportunity for you to look at some of your habits and maybe seek out help.”
Heavy drinkers should reach out to their physician before embarking on a dry or damp January, according to Alan Berki, a drug and alcohol rehab counselor with Cleveland Clinic, as withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and even deadly.
For others, however, there can be a number of physical, mental and emotional benefits.
“The condition of your skin, the increased amount of energy that you have, if you’re not replacing the alcohol with candy or sweets because you may start to crave those a little more if you stop drinking, you’ll definitely experience weight loss,” said Berki.
Dr. Klayton Barrows, D.O., a family medicine physician with Seale Harris Clinic in Birmingham, has seen more people drinking heavily over the last few years, according to Nexstar’s WIAT.
“Any amount [of alcohol] less is better than any amount more, but there are amounts of alcohol that are considered harmful,” Barrows said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Cancer Institute have tied alcohol use to an elevated risk of several types of cancer, including mouth and throat, larynx, esophagus, colon, liver and breast.
So whether your January is bone dry or not entirely, experts recommend remembering that even small changes are worth making.