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Can you stay off the booze for 31 days?

Drinking alcohol is something most people do because it makes them feel good, but if the amount of alcohol you are drinking isn't kept in check it can soon become a problem. Why not take part in Dry January this year to see how it feels when you go without a drink for 31 days?

Last year more than 17,000 people signed up and many said it was a life changing experience. Some said they enjoyed the challenge; some people lost weight, some slept better, almost everyone saved cash and said they'd try and reduce their drinking for the rest of the year. The aim is to get people talking about what they drink, why they drink and how hard it can be to cut down.

There is of course a more serious side to the campaign. It's about raising awareness of the risks of drinking too much alcohol - both the direct damage it does to your body and the effect it has on your behaviour. Being under the influence of alcohol makes you much more likely to put yourself in harm's way. Alcohol is the cause of well over a million admissions to hospital every year.

Dr Jonty Heaversedge, local GP and Chair of NHS Southwark CCG said: "If you find it hard to stop drinking or go without a drink your body is giving you a warning sign that it is time to put your health first and take action."

He added: "Drinking too much increases the risk of liver disease and certain cancers. But it's not just the physical damage alcohol can cause, it impairs our judgement which can cause accidents or arguments, and regular alcohol use can lead to depression and memory loss. It's not easy to live with people who have a drinking problem either and relationships often suffer." 

If your use of alcohol is putting your wellbeing and family life at risk, you can take stock and get some help. The daily recommended sensible drinking limits are that men should not regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol per day while women should not regularly drink more than two to three units of alcohol per day. One unit is half a pint of beer, a small glass of wine or a single measure of spirits. In addition it is important to have at least two drink free days a week to let your body, and especially your liver, recover from the effects of alcohol. 

It can be hard to cut back on alcohol. If you've become dependent on drink you may need extra support to overcome your addiction.  Some people drink to help them deal with difficulties at home or at work - it can help to speak to a counsellor or therapist to find new ways of coping with the stresses of everyday life. Speak to your GP about help available, or if you'd prefer you can get confidential advice at Drinkline on 0800 917 8282. 

You can sign up to Dry January at - where you can also find some helpful tips on how to get through the month without alcohol.