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Why dry January can impact our drinking habits all year round

Blog Dry January

With Christmas day a distant memory, January is seen to be the perfect time for setting new goals and resetting our body and minds after the hectic period. Dry January can often be top of the list when it comes to New Years Resolutions. Founded in 2013 by Alcohol Change UK, this long-running public health initiative sees people across the UK give up alcohol for the month of January, with the aim of improving their health both short term and long term.

A month alcohol-free has a lot of benefits: research published in 2018, conducted by the Royal Free Hospital and published in the British Medical Journal, found that a month off:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces diabetes risk
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Reduces levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.

But real magic can happen when dry January is over. Studies have shown that by creating the habit of not drinking people have realised how much better they feel and that they can actually enjoy social events and relax without alcohol. That means that for the rest of the year they are better able to make decisions about when they drink and how much, so they can avoid slipping into drinking more than they really want to.

However, for some people excessive alcohol consumption is a serious problem and it is therefore an important consideration for social care professionals when assessing child protection issues.

How Cellmark can support social care professionals?

Hair strand testing can detect ‘chronic excessive’ alcohol consumption (as defined by WHO) in the most recent 3 or 6-month period. With repeated testing it is possible to show a decrease in alcohol consumption. Since hair grows at an average rate of approximately one centimetre per month, we can analyse someone’s drinking within an approximate 6-month period form a 6cm hair sample.

Hair Strand alcohol tests detect two types of alcohol markers; EtG (ethyl glucuronide) and a EtPa (a Fatty Acid Ethyl Ester (FAEE) called ethyl palmitate). These markers are break-down products created by the body in the presence of alcohol and are incorporated into the hair through sweat or sebum, allowing us to help assess excessive alcohol consumption. 

While hair testing can reveal a history of alcohol use, it may not be as sensitive to occasional or very low-level alcohol consumption. Alongside hair strand testing Cellmark also offers testing for two biomarkers for alcohol consumption found in blood, namely PEth (phosphatidylethanol) and CDT (carbohydrate deficient transferrin). We recommend blood analysis in addition to hair strand testing to gain a greater overall assessment of a person’s drinking habits. PEth and CDT testing can provide insight into the last 4 weeks of drinking and may also help to determine if someone has been binge drinking or habitual drinking.

Cellmark is an experienced and accredited provider of drug and alcohol testing for local authorities and family lawyers as well as for the police, coroners and the courts. We pride ourselves on our high-quality standards and our customer support. Our experts are always on hand to provide advice, discuss results and to address any queries you may have.