Make it a dry start to 2014

NORTHUMBERLAND residents who drink alcohol are being urged to give it a miss for a month once they have sung Auld Lang Syne.

Now in its second year, Dry January challenges people to use the 31 days as time to consider their alcohol intake and start the New Year with a healthier approach.

Last year, around two-thirds of those who took part in the Alcohol Concern campaign managed to complete the month without a drink, with many suggesting that participating had made them think differently about their alcohol consumption.

Some of the participants did not miss drinking and around four-fifths decided to cut down considerably on a long-term basis.

The campaign is being supported by Balance – the North East Alcohol Office – as well as health professionals and public bodies in Northumberland that are championing other activities as an alternative to having some beers, wines or spirits on a night out or at home.

Kath Bailey, acting director of public health at Northumberland County Council, said: “Dry January is a campaign which gives people the opportunity to consider the benefits of a healthier lifestyle and the benefits of cutting out alcohol.

“If you drink regularly more than the recommended daily limits, then you are putting yourself at risk of damaging your health.

“Alcohol can cause serious health harms, which are only seen after a number of years, such as liver problems, high blood pressure, increased risk of various cancers and also depression.”

As well as hosting vintage tea parties, residents taking part in the challenge could consider meeting friends in a coffee shop rather than a bar, creating their own delicious mocktails and using the extra energy they have as a result of not drinking to start a new exercise regime.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “Many of us are guilty of overdoing it a bit in December, so we’re asking people in Northumberland to think about how they plan to start the New Year now, before the temptation of Christmas drinking takes hold.

“The New Year is the perfect time to take stock of our health, particularly how much alcohol we drink, and accepting the challenge posed by Dry January is a fantastic way to reconsider our usual attitudes towards alcohol.

“Regularly drinking more than the recommended limits can have some serious long-term implications for our health in areas such as mouth and breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. In the short term, drinking too much can cause anxiety, impotence or even death from alcohol poisoning. Taking a break from drinking or reducing your intake is good for your long-term health and there are also a range of immediate benefits such as feeling better in the mornings, having more energy during the day, an increased bank balance and possibly losing weight.”