Professor Matt Field: Dr January - Are there any long-benefits of temporary alcohol abstinence?

A seminar from Professor Matt Field of the University of Sheffield. Room 1.33-1.34. Hosted by I Kellar.

Temporary alcohol abstinence campaigns such as ‘Dry January’ are increasingly popular. Although heavy drinkers will undoubtedly experience short-term health benefits if they take a month off drinking, the longer-term consequences are uncertain. Taking part in Dry January may enable heavy drinkers to ‘reset their relationship with alcohol’ (as advocated by Alcohol Change UK), whereas a more cynical view is that it may distract heavy drinkers from attempting to reduce their drinking in the longer-term. I will discuss evidence from observational studies that suggests that temporary abstinence from alcohol helps people to reduce their drinking in the longer-term, and I will explain why these findings are difficult to interpret. I will then consider the psychological mechanisms of action that might underlie enduring behaviour change after temporary alcohol abstinence. Finally, I will present preliminary work that aims to definitively answer this question by conducting a randomised controlled trial.