Dry January: Why some people are staying sober — and seeing benefits

▶ Watch Video: How beneficial is it to stop drinking for “Dry January”?

Mahina Douglas, who lives in the suburbs of Baltimore, says she loves to socialize. But after the holidays, she’s been thinking about cutting back on alcohol. 

“I just felt like my drinking was getting, I guess a little more than I was comfortable with it being,” Douglas said.

She decided to try “Dry January” — a monthlong sobriety challenge. She even hired Molly Desch, a “sobriety coach.”

“Dry January actually has a ton of benefits — aside from the health benefits, you have cleaner skin, you’ll sleep better, you’ll also save money,” Desch said.

According to consumer insight group Veylinx, 54% of Americans say they want to reduce their alcohol intake. A study published in the British Medical Journal shows people who gave up alcohol for one month had significant improvements in their health and lost an average of four pounds. And according to the American Heart Association, a 2022 national survey suggested as many as 35% of American adults of legal age gave up drinking last January.

Desch said introducing a new hobby, like exercise, can help replace drinking.  

“And also have an accountability partner, so if you know somebody that also wants to participate in Dry January, boom, sign them up, you guys can text each other throughout the day if you’re having a hard time, you can celebrate milestones,” Desch said.

Research also shows people who participate in Dry January often continue to drink less even six to eight months later. 

Anahad O’Connor, a health columnist for The Washington Post, told CBS News that one of the reasons people continue to curtail their drinking is because they see the tangible benefits of not drinking for the month. He said some of the benefits people have reported included “everything from saving more money … to having more energy. People report sleeping better. Six out of 10 people report losing weight, having better concentration, having better skin.”


“Dry January” offers a New Year’s detox. What are the benefits?


According to the American Heart Association, studies have also found the short-term health benefits of abstaining from alcohol could include lower blood pressure, improvements in insulin resistance, weight loss, better sleep and lower cancer risk.

Drinking is on the rise, according to the Journal of Addiction Medicine, and Dr. Aakash Shah, chief of Jersey Shore University Medical Center’s Addiction Medical Center, told “CBS Mornings” that so-called “gray-area drinkers” — who he said are people who do not have a physical dependency on alcohol, but have similar tendencies — could be at risk.

Dry January comes after the time of the year when people drink the most — according to UCLA Health, some people as much as double their alcohol consumption between Thanksgiving and the new year compared with the rest of the calendar.

It also comes at a time of year when many people are making resolutions, which can often go unfulfilled. But O’Connor said that about 75% of those who commit to Dry January succeed in abstaining from alcohol for the month. Even those who don’t make it through the whole month still report seeing some of the benefits, including drinking less going forward, O’Connor said. 

Douglas hopes to continue to limit her drinking after January is over.

“I’m looking for a lifestyle change that I can keep with me forever,” she said.

Douglas said she started limiting her alcohol even before January began, and already noticed she’s sleeping better.  

Sobriety coaches also say telling friends and family you’re trying Dry January can help incentivize you to stay committed through the whole month.

O’Connor also suggested it can be helpful to find a new favorite — non-alcoholic — drink. 

“If you can replace that glass of wine that you’re used to having in your hand at dinner with, you know, a glass of sparkling water or maybe some sparkling water with a dash of cranberry juice, that can get you out of the habit of mindless drinking,” he said.

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