I won't Go Sober for October, stop-start drinking is not the answer

Suggesting drinkers go cold turkey for a month could actually do more harm than good

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We’ve all, at some stage in our lives, woken up with a hangover so head-poundingly terrible we swear off booze the second our dry, sticky mouths can spit out a sentence. “That’s it”, we splutter, hazy memories of the night before drifting into focus. “Never again. Lime and soda for the next 60 years.”

And then, at a colleague’s leaving bash just days later, someone will offer us a white wine spritzer and just like that we’ll fall off the week-long wagon, necking Tequila shots and dancing on tables like we’re Lindsay sodding Lohan.

According to a survey conducted by Macmillan Cancer Support, the average Briton spends almost a year of their lives nursing a hangover. The charity, which is running a Go Sober for October campaign, questioned more than 2,000 British adults and found that one in 14 will have more than 3,000 hangovers in their lifetime, a figure calculated by multiplying the average amount of time people spend hung over each month with their life expectancy.

It’s a sobering report, and encouraging people to drink responsibly is important. But I think suggesting drinkers go cold turkey for a month could actually do more harm than good. I have a number of friends who have taken part in similar campaigns. Dry January is a favourite; a way to cleanse the body (and the conscience) after the excesses of Christmas and New Year. They all celebrate at the end of the month, of course. In fact, Dry January is normally followed by a very, very wet February as they make up for lost time, chugging back the hooch like there’s no tomorrow.

Abstaining from alcohol for one month actually promotes an unhealthy attitude towards drinking, suggesting it’s better to stop and start than to drink in moderation. Just as, when I swear off the booze after a particularly heavy weekend, I inevitably end up back on the gins and tonics, a month of no alcohol will likely culminate in a greatly reduced tolerance to the drug.

A more sensible approach might be to gradually reduce the number of units we consume across several months and encourage a healthier approach to weekend debauchery. OK, it might not be as catchy a campaign as “Go Sober for October”, but in the long term the slow and steady method will prove infinitely more beneficial.

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