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One week into Dry January and counting ...

About 15% of American adults say they're swearing off booze this month.
University of Virginia
About 15% of American adults say they're swearing off booze this month.

A survey done earlier this month showed about 15% of adults in this country planned to give up drinking in January.

“People, sometimes especially during the holidays, drink a lot more than they realize," says Dr. Neeral Shah, a liver specialist at the University of Virginia. "I think it’s important to sort of take a step back and maybe take a month off from drinking to allow your body to recover.”

Shah says one month is long enough to make a difference.

“People have shown beneficial effects of taking a break from alcohol: Better sleep hygiene, lower blood pressures, clearer complexion in their skin, weight loss and recovery of the liver.”

And when the month is over, he adds, some may realize it wasn’t that hard and decide to continue or at least cut back on drinking. For those who are struggling, he says, it’s helpful to change social patterns. Instead of meeting friends at a bar, plan to take a walk or meet for coffee. Order non-alcoholic drinks at restaurants, and if cravings are a problem, talk to your doctor.

"There are three FDA-approved medications to treat alcohol abuse disorder. They may curb the cravings for alcohol, or they may create side effects when you take in alcohol, so you don’t feel good. Obviously your body’s natural tendency is to avoid things that don’t make it feel good," Shah explains.

If you suspect drinking is a response to bigger problems, Shah also suggests counseling or joining a group like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief