If you are doing Dry July this year, well done and keep up the good work. Giving up alcohol for one month may sound easy but with social drinking so heavily engrained in our culture and often how people deal with stress, it may be difficult for some people to manage their use or stop.
It is important to know that during times of increased health risks, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, using alcohol to cope with stress can compromise your health as it impacts, among other things:
- Your body's ability to regulate sleep, directly impacting your immune function
- Affects judgement, sight and co-ordination, which often causes accidents – especially falls
- It can cause frequent infections
- Impact your ability to concentrate
- Have a detrimental effect on your relationships
Whether you're giving up alcohol all together or cutting down, forgoing alcohol for an extended period can do you a lot of good, particularly when it comes to lowering your risk of disease.
As a depressant, alcohol often amplifies mental health issues putting people in more of a negative frame of mind than they normally would be. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), drinking alcohol is associated with a risk of developing health problems such as mental and behavioural disorders.
Professor Steve Allsop at the National Drug Research Institute, says that in the short-term taking a month off drinking can improve your sleep. The Australian Government's dedicated mental health website Head to Health explains, "when we don't get quality sleep, we can feel fuzzy and irritable, and it can also lead to increased anxiety and depression."
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) suggest that for healthy adults, reducing your alcohol intake by even two or less drinks per day significantly lowers your risk of alcohol-related injury or disease. Drinking less frequently, like drinking on one occasion per week rather than daily, and drinking less on each occasion, also reduces the lifetime risk of alcohol-related harm.
Each day that you decide not to drink alcohol, you're potentially avoiding or preventing serious life-long health concerns.
Important note: For some people, suddenly stopping drinking can make them feel physically and emotionally unwell. If you feel you cannot stop, or experience sweatiness, nausea or shaking within days of not drinking – you may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms and should see your doctor.
Help to get healthy
Want to cut down on booze but need guidance and help? Take advantage of the free NSW telephone-based coaching service Get Healthy. The Get Healthy Alcohol Reduction program is designed to support you to make healthy lifestyle changes and reduce your alcohol consumption.
Health coaches assess your current drinking habits and provide support and motivation to help you reach your health goal.
The NSW Get Healthy Service is available Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm. To enrol call 1300 806 258 or register online at gethealthynsw.com.au.
Help in your pocket
The Drinks Meter app, recently launch by NSW Health, is packed with unique features to help you control and reduce how much you drink. Features include:
- Interactive tools to assess your alcohol intake using common standard drinks, kilojoules (calories) and unhealthy food equivalents
- Feedback on your alcohol consumption adjusted to your individual personal risk factors, including family and medical history (e.g. BMI, prescription medication, mental illness and other drug use)
- Drinking diary with weekly goal setting function and reminders (along with encouraging tips)
- Calculator to track your alcohol expenses and savings
- Comparison tool to see where your drinking measures with national guidelines and more than 30,000 other Drinks Meter users
Drinks Meter is free and can be installed from the Google Play and Apple App stores.
Helping people affected by cancer
Every year, Dry July participants fundraise to improve the comfort and wellbeing of people affected by cancer. The foundation provides wellness programs, comfort items, transport services, accommodation projects, refurbishments, information resources, hospital furnishings and entertainment items for cancer patients.
Give your liver a rest! Go dry this July.
Want to know whether your drinking habits are putting you at risk? Find out by using our Alcohol Risk Assessment Tool.
For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs 24 hours, 7 days a week, call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. For help with reducing your alcohol consumption, contact the Get Healthy service on 1300 806 258 or online at gethealthynsw.com.au.