When we talk about Dry January 2024, it’s essential to address first things first:
For people who engage in chronic, problem drinking and/or people diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (AUD), quitting alcohol suddenly and completely – what most of us call “cold turkey” – can lead to severe health consequences, including death.
If you’re a heavy, chronic drinker, you should not suddenly and completely quit drinking alcohol without consulting a physician. This warning is for you if you’ve tried to stop drinking in the past and experienced the following symptoms:
We’re not advising against Dry January. We’re saying this loud and clear:
If you know you have a drinking problem, don’t do Dry January alone, don’t do it without talking to a doctor first, and be ready for big changes.
No joke: knowledge and prevention, in this case, can save your life. If you think you meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD), talk to a doctor before you quit. They’ll review the significant risks of alcohol withdrawal syndrome and help access the resources you need to stop drinking safely.
You can also learn about AUD diagnosis and treatment by navigating to the AUD page on our website:
Now it’s time to discuss Dry January 2024.
Dry January 2024: What You Need to Know
The first thing to know about Dry January 2024 – after you read our serious warnings above – is that it’s a great idea. For some people, it’s life changing, and that includes people with or without alcohol use disorder (AUD). The benefits are far greater and impact more areas of life and health than most people can imagine.
We’ll review the basic benefits of Dry January in a moment.
First, a little history.
Dry January started in a curious way. In January 2011, a woman named Emily Robinson decided to run her first half marathon, scheduled to take place in February. To give herself a better chance at finishing and make her training easier, she decided to stop drinking for the month leading up to the 13.1-mile, 21-kilometer event.
During that month, Emily lost weight, got better sleep, and reported feeling like she had the energy to finish the half marathon. During and after that month though, Emily was amazed by one thing that had nothing to do with running: everyone wanted to know what quitting alcohol for 30 days was like.
The next year, 2012, Emily began working for Alcohol Change UK. Her experience the previous year intrigued her new colleagues, and they began conversations about how to spread the idea of Dry January to others. They thought that sponsoring an alcohol-free-month initiative could get people thinking about their drinking, and possibly result in helping people reduce and manage their alcohol intake.
Here’s how they describe their initial concept:
“The aim of our campaign was to start a new conversation about alcohol, to encourage people to consider and discuss their alcohol consumption and ultimately, to inspire behavior change following a positive and fun-filled month of sobriety.”
The idea caught on, and Alcohol Change UK launched the first Dry January in 2013 with around 4,000 participants. In 2023, its 10th year, over 175,000 people officially participated in Dry January, with millions informally saying in a YouGov survey they planned to try quitting or cutting back on alcohol consumption during Dry January 2023.
No Alcohol for 31 Days: What Might Happen During Dry January 2024
First, let’s look at the general health and wellness benefits of Dry January. These may include:
- Better sleep
- More energy
- Weight loss
- Saving money
- Healthier looking hair
- Healthier looking skin
In addition, since alcohol can impair immune function, people who participate in Dry January 2024 might experience fewer cases of the common cold, and their immune systems may be better equipped to ward off and prevent infections with flu and other respiratory viruses. And one more thing: many people report seasonal depression – clinically called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – and since alcohol is associated with low or depressive mood, trying Dry January 2024 may mitigate clinical SAD, and help others avoid the winter blues and blahs.
Next, let’s look at the body of evidence-based research on the health, wellness, and life-domain impacts of participating in Dry January.
A study published in 2019 showed changes in the following health metrics:
- Insulin resistance via a homeostatic model assessment (HOMA): scores decreased by an average of 25%
- Changes in weight: a significant number of participants lost over 2% of their starting body weight
- Blood pressure (BP): a significant number of participants showed a decrease in BP of over 5%
- Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a cancer marker: significant decrease
- Epidermal growth factor (EGF), another cancer marker: significant decrease
Another study, published in 2020, showed changes in the following wellness metrics:
- General self-efficacy (GSE): participants reported increases in self-efficacy at double the rate of non-participants
- Overall wellbeing: participants reported significant increases in wellbeing scores, while non-participants reported decreased overall wellbeing
Participants in this study also reported the following:
- 63% saved money
- 56% had improved sleep
- 52% had more energy
- 50% had better overall health
- 38% lost weight
Those studies offer compelling reasons to give dry January a try. There’s one more study we need to discuss, though: a study conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex.
Dry January 2018: An In-Depth Look
The Sussex study gathered extensive data on people who participated in and completed Dry January 2018. Here’s what they found:
- Most people who decreased alcohol intake in January reported they were still drinking less in August
- Days drinking: average number of drinking decreased by (1) day per week, from about (4) to about (3)
- Units of alcohol per drinking day decreased from 8.5 to 7 units:
- One unit of alcohol is about 10 milliliters (ml)
- A typical shot glass in the U.S. holds about 1 unit of pure alcohol
- 12 ounces (a typical bottle or can in the U.S.) holds about 1.7 units of pure alcohol
- 5 ounces of wine (a typical glass served in a restaurant) holds about 2.3 units of pure alcohol
- A pint of beer (the typical serving in the U.K.) holds about 2.3 units of pure alcohol
- Days being drunk decreased almost 40%, from about (3) days to about (2) days being drunk per month
They also collected data on a variety of other metrics, which we share below:
Benefits of a Dry January: How One Month Helps
- 93% said they felt like they’d accomplished something important
- 88% saved money
- 82% seriously reassessed their drinking behavior
- 80% felt increased control over their drinking behavior
- 76% learned about when and why the drink
- 71% reported that for the first time, they realized they don’t need alcohol to have fun
- 70% said they had improved overall health
- 71% reported better sleep
- 67% said they had more energy
- 58% lost weight
- 57% said their ability to concentrate improved
- 54% reported improved skin quality
We’ll close with a word from the study authors on the value of Dry January, and why anyone considering Dry January 2024 should give it a try – after consulting a physician, of course:
“Many of us know about the health risks of alcohol – seven forms of cancer, liver disease, mental health problems – but we are often unaware that drinking less has more immediate benefits too. Sleeping better, feeling more energetic, saving money, better skin, losing weight…The list goes on. Dry January helps millions to experience those benefits and to make a longer-lasting change.”
Dry January: How to Get Started
If you want to participate in Dry January, please take advantage of the following resources provided by Alcohol Change U.K.:
- Try Dry, the official Dry January app
- Try Dry, the official guide to Dry January
- Dry January email coaching
If you register for Dry January through Alcohol Change U.K. and share your experience, they’ll include it in their data and resources for others. In that way, participating can not only benefit you, but others who may need to make a positive change.
Getting Help for AUD
If you or someone you love drinks excessively and you’re concerned, please contact us today. We know how to support you with safe, evidence-based methods to reduce or completely stop drinking alcohol.