Does ‘Dry January’ Actually Work? This Week in Addiction and Recovery

Does ‘Dry January’ Actually Work? This Week in Addiction and Recovery News

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One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to take a month-long break from alcohol, with many people referring to it as “Dry January.” This week, WebMD explored whether a “Dry January” actually works. A recently published study revealed that laying off the booze for one month would result in lower blood pressure, improved insulin resistance, and weight loss, among other health benefits. “The brilliant thing about Dry January is that it’s not really about January,” said Dr. Richard Piper, chief executive officer of Alcohol Change UK. “Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to socialize. That means that for the rest of the year we are better able to make decisions about our drinking, and to avoid slipping into drinking more than we really want to.” Alcohol Change UK, which started the Dry January campaign in 2012, says that more than 4 million people have pledged to participate in the no-drinking challenge. The group says that 88% of the initiative’s participants saved money, 71% experienced better sleep, 67% had more day-to-day energy and 58% lost weight by the end of January.

Bam Margera Enters Rehab for Third Time

Former Jackass star Brandon Cole “Bam” Margera announced on Tuesday that he was seeking treatment for alcoholism. According to CNN, the 39-year-old pro skateboarder posted the news on his Instagram account via a photo of him and his 1-year-old son. “Off to alcohol rehab for the 3rdtime,” the caption read. “I am hoping the 3rdtime is a charm is true.” He separately posted thank-you messages to sober coach Bob Marier, skateboarder Johnny Schillereff and interventionist Tim Ryan, as well as Jackass stars Johnny Knoxville, Brandon Novak and Steve-O. His wife Nicole Boyd posted “I’m truly so proud of you honey bear” as an Instagram comment; Steve-O followed suit with his own comment: “We love you, brother.” Margera’s decision to return to rehab comes a year after his previous time in alcohol treatment, following a DUI arrest in Los Angeles.

CBD & THC May Curb Opioid Addiction Crisis, Experts Say

When it comes to the opioid crisis ravaging the United States, medical marijuana is likely one of the last solutions someone might consider. However, that’s exactly what some addiction experts argue may hold the key to battling the opioid epidemic. In a CBS New York story published Thursday, Columbia Care is one of several medical marijuana dispensaries currently working with patients to help them through opioid addiction. “We’re very careful to make sure all of our products are characterized and are blended to always be the same product every time,” Dr. Rosemary Mazanet said. Mazanet, a former oncologist, said that Columbia Care and Columbia University are working together on a federal study regarding the effects of medical marijuana on opioid use. According to Mazanet, marijuana contains 500 different compounds, including THC (the psychoactive element) and CBD (the legal cannabinoid component). Truth be told, Mazanet claims, it could be any number of combinations that successfully combat opioid abuse in a patient, depending on the degree of addiction. “THC-heavy versus CBD-heavy versus all these other smaller compounds you may never have heard of may be very important for the efficacy of the different disease states,” said Mazanet. The article adds that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have already signed and supported legislature legalizing marijuana in New York.

Which Direction Is Alcohol Consumption Heading in 2019?

An intriguing new report released this week by Beverage Daily examined not only the alcohol industry at large, but its trends and forecasts as we head into 2019. According to the report, alcohol consumption is currently “stagnating” as consumers increasingly pay close attention to their own health and wellness, claiming that US alcohol consumption fell 0.7% last year. On an individual level, craft beer will continue to increase in sales (7,000 breweries opened in the US last year, with another 1,000 expected to open this year), though the South holds onto prohibitive laws around opening microbreweries. Most of the craft breweries will continue to grow in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest and East Coast. Millennials also “outdrank Baby Boomers” in 2019, which suggests there will still be a strong appetite for wine in future years—especially if the wine was “made with a holistic process in mind” or “sustainably-minded in general”).

Altered Memories May Help Treat Addiction

A fascinating Daily Beast story published this week makes the case that altering memories might be the answer to effectively treating addiction. A brand-new study shows promise with an unusual, if not controversial technique, led by research and clinical psychologist Mike Saladin. According to the story, a person addicted to cocaine arrived at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and was prescribed a powerful drug called propranolol, which disrupts the brain’s ability to form new memories. The idea, Saladin said of his larger study using the approach, is to weaken the power of drug-use memories. “We’re turning down the volume [of memories],” he said, so that they “don’t excite drug use the way they used to.” Propranolol is commonly used to treat high blood pressure, though evidence is mounting that it is also effective in anxiety disorders and memory modulating. David Epstein, who runs the Real-world Assessment, Prediction, and Treatment Unit at the National Institute on Drug Abuse isn’t sold, The Daily Beast noted. “We can’t treat addiction just by using extinction, in which someone is repeatedly exposed to drug-related cues until the cues cease to induce craving,” he said, “because extinction doesn’t generalize outside the environment where it occurs.” Epstein cautioned that while the treatment process may initially seem to be working, it might not have the long-term impact everyone hopes it will. “There’s no consensus on whether these [propranolol]treatments really weaken or erase memories at the neural level. It’s possible that the memories are still physically present, but difficult to access,” Epstein added. “In practical terms, that might be fine—unless the memories return.”

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Paul Fuhr is an addiction recovery writer whose work has appeared in The Literary Review, The Live Oak Review, The Sobriety Collective and InRecovery Magazine, among others. He is the author of the alcoholism memoir “Bottleneck.” He's also the creator and co-host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and recovery. Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and their cats, Dr. No and Goldeneye.