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Making the Most of Dry January with Cannabis: Practical Tips and Advice

cannabis dry january

Now that we are midway through January, you may know some friends or family members who have decided to go the entire month without consuming alcohol. You may be abstaining yourself from alcoholic beverages as well this month for Dry January.

Not only is Dry January a trendy thing to do, but it can help create new habits that support better health and wellness. Despite what alcoholic beverage manufacturers would like us to believe, even small amounts of alcohol can be detrimental to your health.

If you live in a state that has legalized cannabis beverages, then it is easy to make a substitution for Dry January. Some polls state that cannabis use actually increases in January; whether that is a mindfulness approach to reduce alcohol use or used in part to combat the post-holiday blues some people experience is unknown.

Increasingly, there are conversations about a permanent switch to healthier ways and consumption methods. Cannabis plays an important role for many who manage to have a successful Dry January.

drinking alcohol

What is Dry January?

If you guessed it had something to do with obtaining from alcohol consumption, you would be correct! Every year, more and more people are participating in Dry January to start the new year on a healthier note. As far as New Year’s resolutions go, it may be the easiest one to stick to since it only lasts for thirty-one (31) days.

Participating in Dry January is easy; you simply do not drink alcohol. Did you know that many people who use medical cannabis are not drinking alcohol that often? Many of the same effects that you can experience after a few drinks you can also realize by using medical cannabis. The best part? There is no hangover to contend with the next day.

How many Americans are actually participating? The estimate was over 26 million in 2023 alone. There is growing social awareness regarding the harms of alcohol use. Many people feel that the cannabis experience can be equally beneficial for relaxation; it can help to manage stress and social situations and provide temporary relief from anxiety, insomnia, and more. Not to mention that most cannabis products have zero calories, which supports healthy weight management goals.

The Dry January commitment is an opportunity to focus on health and personal development. Dry January participants seem to make it through the whole month easily, for the most part, and enjoy the wellness journey. Some choose to consume cannabis instead, which is considered healthier.

dry january cannabis

Who Started the Dry January Social Trend?

Admittedly, I was very surprised to learn that the concept of ‘Dry January’ stemmed all the way back to 1942. That was when the Finnish Government decided to start a war effort campaign to reduce alcohol consumption and save resources during their war against Russia.

However, it was the United Kingdom that gave birth to the concept that became a worldwide trend. It was started by Alcohol Change UK (who owns the trademark for ‘Dry January). In January 2011, a woman named Emily Robinson joined the educational organization and shared that her half-marathon results were better after she obtained from alcohol. It became a formal health campaign annually in Great Britain in 2013.

By 2022, the idea really caught on, thanks in part to COVID-19 health implications. Remember the COVID lockdown? Stores were closed, businesses sent people home to work remotely, and the impact on the economy was catastrophic. Many Americans suffered substantial emotional losses of family and friends and economic hardship.

That year, the Dry January initiative hit an all-time high (pun intended) in response to increased alcohol consumption during the COVID-19. The National Institutes of Health reported research from Morning Consult that stated 1 in 4 Americans were drinking much more than usual while social distancing at home.

Health Risks Associated With Alcohol Consumption

An expert in the field of health risks, William M.P. Klein, Ph.D., is the Associate Director of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Behavioral Research Program. He conducted an analysis of the 2020 Health Informational National Trends Survey and discovered something surprising. Only 20.3% of Americans knew that wine consumption was linked to cancer.

In addition, the data revealed that almost 25% did not know that drinking beer could also substantially increase cancer risks. About 32% of Americans knew that hard liquor could cause cancer and other health problems. Just under 14% of Americans felt that beer, wine, and liquor helped decrease cancer risks.

Are you surprised to learn that wine has an equal risk of causing cancer compared to liquor? I certainly was. Like many people, I believed that wine (particularly dry reds with high quantities of tannin) was beneficial to my health.

It is a pop culture misconception perpetrated by wine manufacturers, according to Jennifer L. Hay, PhD, who is a psychologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Hay referred to it as a “Health Halo,” which is an inaccurate narrative supported by a “60 Minutes” episode called “The French Paradox,” which aired in 1991. The gist? French people have lower rates of heart disease even though the French diet is rich in fatty foods. Wine consumption was linked to heart health benefits.

Now, medical experts are trying to correct that narrative. No amount of alcohol intake is actually good for you. In fact, even when you think you consume responsibly, no amount of Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is actually safe.

What Types of Cancer Are Linked to Consuming Alcohol?

The health risks associated with consuming alcohol are attributed to many different factors. Heredity plays an important role in assessing cancer risks. The quantity and frequency of alcohol consumed contribute to increased health risks; the more you consume and the higher the alcohol content, the greater your risks become.

Here are the specific types of cancer that are linked to alcohol abuse:

  • Breast Cancer.
  • Liver Cancer.
  • Colorectal Cancer.
  • Esophageal Cancer.
  • Head and Neck Cancers.

Alcohol has the potential to damage DNA in human cells. In some cases, alcohol may also increase estrogen levels and impact the lining of major organs, such as the colon, liver, and esophagus. When combined with tobacco products, the risk of developing cancer increases substantially.

As increased awareness and education about the effects of alcohol on health and well-being are presented, more people are looking at medical cannabis use or adult use as a safer alternative. The uplifting effects of cannabis are similar to those experienced when you consume alcohol. Without the physical fallout of a hangover.

2024 Report from Pew Research About Americans and Alcohol Use

Dry January is creating a new educational opportunity, and researchers are learning more about alcohol consumption in the United States. Pew Research published a new study on January 3, 2024, “10 Facts About Americans and Alcohol as ‘Dry January’ Begins,” and it is full of new insights about our collective obsession with alcohol use.

Here are some of the most interesting facts in their study:

The Number of People Regularly Consuming Alcohol is Dropping

According to Pew Research, 62% of Americans say they regularly drink alcohol, but 38% abstain from it completely. For over eighty years, Gallup has surveyed Americans on alcohol use. In the 1970s, over 71% of American adults said they regularly drank alcohol.

dry january cannabis use

Men Are More Likely to Overindulge in Alcohol Than Women

Approximately 1 in 5 adults, or 19% of Americans over 21 years of age, stated they are concerned they drink too much. For men, 21% stated that they overindulge, compared to 16% of women. That variance in alcohol use has remained fairly consistent since the 1980s.

Age is almost an equalizer regarding alcohol consumption; 2 in 10 adults younger than age thirty-five feel they drink too much, whereas 20% of adults 35 to 54 years feel the same. Only 14% of adults aged 55 or older reported concern over their alcohol consumption.

Higher Income Related to Higher Alcohol Consumption

Twenty-four percent (24%) of Americans with household incomes of at least $100,000 per year responded that they feel they overconsume alcohol. Only 10% of adults with household incomes of less than $40,000 per year felt the same way.

Americans who are aged 35-54 and have a college degree and household income of over $100,000 are more likely to consume more alcohol compared to other cohorts.

Underage Drinking By American Teenagers Has Dropped

According to the University of Michigan’s “Monitoring the Future” survey, the number of teenagers consuming alcohol has continued to drop for the past twenty years. In 2001, 73% of 12th-grade students and 64% of 10th-grade minors stated they regularly used alcohol. In 2023, those numbers dropped to 46% and 31% respectively.

Is Cannabis Healthier Than Using Alcohol?

More research is needed to understand the long-term effects of regular cannabis use. However, by comparison, responsible use of cannabis may be much safer. To date, it’s understood that cannabinoids can have a positive impact on human health by reducing pain perception, anxiety and stress, muscle spasms, and more.

Some studies have also suggested that cannabis can reduce the size of certain types of tumors. People who use medical marijuana who suffer from chronic stress may also see their cortisol (stress hormone) levels drop. Cortisol causes a weakening of the immune system and increased inflammation. The hormone can negatively impact cellular regulation, but while cortisol does not directly increase the risk of developing cancer, it can create a perfect environment for cancer to thrive within the human body.

Cannabis can play a role in having a successful Dry January, but it may also serve as a healthier alternative to consuming alcohol. Stay hydrated when using cannabis with plain or sparkling water or other non alcoholic beverages. It could be a game changer.


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