Chicago, IL

Americans drank more during the pandemic: Is it time for Dry January?

Jennifer Geer

(CHICAGO) Dry January, when people stop drinking for a month after the holiday excess, is growing increasingly popular

Health experts say more people have been seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder during the pandemic.

According to a press release from Gateway Foundation, a national drug and alcohol treatment center with 16 locations throughout Illinois including Chicago and the suburbs, its specialists have seen an uptick in patients seeking help for alcohol use disorder.

Marc Turner, President of the Community Services Division at Gateway Foundation and manager of the Illinois and California Community Division, says Dry January may be a difficult challenge for some this year.

"People who routinely drink alcohol to manage their emotions have 'turned up the drinking dial' because of pandemic chaos," Turner said in a press release. "Dry January 2022 may be the hardest ever on people because of stress and trauma stemming from this ongoing pandemic."

Turner adds that despite the media attention of opioid addictions, "alcohol remains the most abused substance."

What is Dry January?

Dry January is a term that was coined in 2013. It's a month of abstinence from partaking alcohol after many may have overused the substance during the holiday season. Its goal is to kick off your year in a healthy manner by benefiting from the effects of stopping alcohol use.

Though there isn't a ton of research on the benefits of Dry January, one study from 2016 did show some positive effects. People participating in Dry January drank less and got drunk less after the month was up.

Going cold turkey may not be the right thing for everyone

Turner cautions people who have been drinking excessively to be careful if attempting Dry January, "People addicted to alcohol must be careful when going 'cold turkey.' If you suffer from alcohol use disorder, the sudden absence of alcohol can cause severe withdrawal and be harmful to your health."

Turner suggests that participating in a Dry January can be useful in discovering what works and what doesn't. And if you find yourself struggling, you may want to consider seeking help from professionals.

Turner also advises being kind to yourself when attempting the month-long abstinence plan, "Don't punish yourself for not sticking to your Dry January plan. If you take notice of what's working and what isn't -- and why -- then that is an excellent opportunity to seek help for what might not be working for you. If you commit to quitting and cannot, we can help you with that."

The Gateway Foundation has multiple locations throughout northern Illinois, including Chicago, Downers Grove, Lake Villa, Aurora, Joliet, Skokie, and Gurnee. See here for a complete list of Illinois locations. For the complete news release, go here.

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