Image demonstrating Northumberland’s challenge to start the New Year by ditching the booze for 31 days.

Northumberland’s challenge to start the New Year by ditching the booze for 31 days.

Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, is urging friends, families and work colleagues in Northumberland to come together and take on the 2018 Dry January challenge, as a recent YouGov poll found almost one in 10 people in the North East – 168,899 people – are already planning on taking part.

Now in its sixth year, Alcohol Concern’s Dry January asks people to put the excesses of the festive period behind them and start the New Year with 31 days off the booze to feel healthier, save money and re-set their relationship with alcohol.  

The campaign launches today, 15 December, which marks one of the busiest days of the year for the emergency services as Christmas parties lead to alcohol-related injuries and violence. Alcohol harm costs the region an estimated £1.01bn every year, including £209m to the NHS and £331m in crime and disorder costs, equating to around £386 for every man, woman and child.

With recent findings showing more than one in four people in the North East are drinking above the low risk guidelines of 14 units a week for both men and women, Dry January encourages people to take a break which can give the body a chance to recover.

In 2015, the Royal Free Hospital in London found an alcohol-free month has a positive impact on blood sugar levels, blood pressure and the liver and an estimated 72% of people who complete Dry January say they are drinking less six months later.

Alongside Northumberland County Council and staff at County Hall, Balance is promoting the many benefits of giving your body a break from booze, including losing weight, sleeping better and saving money. 

The North East has led the way in terms of Dry January sign ups over the past four years, with the highest proportion of people taking up the challenge, compared to any other region in the country. The same YouGov poll shows 6% of UK adults are planning to take part – around 3.1m people.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “After the excesses of the festive period, Dry January is a great opportunity to give your body a break from alcohol at a time when many other people are also taking a month off. 

“Drinking above the low risk limit puts us at more risk from around 60 different medical conditions, including at least seven types of cancer. Regular drinking also makes us more tired, anxious and less productive, so taking some time out can have real positive effects on our health and wellbeing.  

“Dry January can also stop drinking becoming too much of a regular thing – research shows three-quarters of people who complete the month are drinking at lower levels six months on.

“We’re encouraging people to get family, friends and colleagues on board too. It can be a real motivating factor taking on a challenge together and we know that it can make us more likely to succeed.”

This year’s campaign is again supported by Northumberland County Council, who are joining the calls for local people to take on the challenge.

Northumberland County Councillor Veronica Jones, cabinet member for Adult Wellbeing and Health said:  “January is the perfect time to make a healthy start to the year ahead, after many people will have indulged in a drink to celebrate Christmas and New Year.

 "We’re urging Northumberland residents to have a go at reducing their alcohol intake and enjoy all the benefits that will bring."

Northumberland County Council’s Interim Director of Public Health, Liz Morgan said: “We are happy to support this great campaign, by going dry for one month, people can change their relationship with alcohol.

 “Alcohol can contribute to many aspects of poor health, but there is also an easy way to cut your risk – reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. 

“It will encourage people to consider their lifestyle choices, doing something which will improve their health and encourage everyone to take part in Dry January.”

NHS Health Improvement Specialist, Tim Holmes, 44, from Guidepost in Northumberland, took part in Dry January three years ago and after feeling the benefits, decided to give up booze for good. Three years on, Tim is encouraging others to try 31 days alcohol-free and see how they feel.

Tim said: “Three years ago, I made the decision to sign up to Dry January. I’ve never been a big drinker but I wanted to see how I’d feel by taking some time out from alcohol. 

“I actually started my ‘dry’ month just before Christmas as I thought I’d see how I’d get on. Half way through January, I realised that I just hadn’t missed alcohol at all and that gave me the motivation to continue through to my holiday that May. Once my holiday was over and I’d made it that far, I decided just to keep going. 

“When I made the decision to give up alcohol altogether, I had discussions with my friends and explained what I was doing and why. They were supportive but some did feel it would be a big move. But I think they’ve realised what a positive decision it’s been for me and it’s definitely changed our conversations around alcohol. Some of my friends are considering doing Dry January too. 

“For me, it’s not about saying to people give up alcohol altogether. When I first tried Dry January I had no intention of cutting out alcohol completely, but I gave it a go and I liked how good it felt. I’d encourage people to try 31 days free from booze and just see how they feel.”

Some more facts about Dry January 2017.
  • 79% of participants said they saved money. The average person spends £50,000 on booze in their lifetime
  • 62% said they had more energy and slept better
  • 49% lost weight

Top tips for seeing Dry January through to the end:
  • Don’t forget to include Dry January on your Facebook or Instagram page. It might also encourage your friends and is a good way to give a mention to your favourite charity if you are fundraising.
  • Take part with a friend and spur each other on – people who take part in Dry January with someone else are more likely to go the full month. Buddying up means you’ll support each other through any wobbles, celebrate each other’s achievements and enjoy other distractions and treats together. 
  • Try something new – take advantage of feeling better in yourself and join the gym or try a new sport. Even just getting out into the fresh air and blowing away those cobwebs (hangover free!), will make you feel great.  
  • Keep track of progress – regular drinking can soon pile on the pounds in more ways than one and it’s a good idea to keep a record of weight loss or money saved as a great way of helping you stay on track. 

Download the Dry January app available on iOS and Android to help track progress, and for handy tips and tricks.

After Dry January you might not feel like another full month off. But it might get you thinking about taking more days off drinking, especially midweek. Why not download the Public Health  England Days Off app?

To sign up to Dry January, find out more about the campaign and to access a wealth of support and advice, visit the Dry January website at

For more information about Balance, visit or
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