Is Febfast a furphy?

Abstaining from alcohol for a month, whether it’s during febfast, Dry July or Ocsober, may not be the best way to improve your health, but will it improve your relationship with the demon drink?

Febfast, Dry July and Ocsober started as charity fundraisers that challenge participants to abstain from alcohol, with a view to raising money. The money is raised by people being sponsored or ‘buying’ a pass that allows them to have a drink.

Yet the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s chief executive Michael Thorn believes people may be fooled into believing that it’s beneficial for their health, when actually it’s better to take a few days off each week, every week of the year. “It gives the impression you can rectify a long-term problem by taking a month off the booze,” he said.“But many people binge the month before or after.”

This is supported by Ian Hamilton, a lecturer at York University in the UK. The substance-abuse expert has written in the British Medical Journal that there is no reliable evidence to support any long-term benefit of giving up the booze for a month. In fact, he writes that even though stopping alcohol doesn’t affect most people, heavy drinkers can experience withdrawal symptoms. These can be as severe as seizures.

Although the long-term health benefits can’t be proven, giving up alcohol for a short while, especially if it leads to a re-evaluation of how much you drink, can’t be a bad thing. While Australia’s alcohol consumption per capita is declining, and more people are not drinking altogether, binge drinking is on the increase, with one in five young people regularly drinking more than 10 standard units in one session.

Given the link between moderate drinking and a higher risk of throat and mouth cancer, as well as the other known diseases and conditions caused by too much drinking, anything that can be done to reduce drinking should be encouraged.

Dr Stephen Parnis, vice president of the Australian Medical Association, says such events prove that life can be lived without alcohol, “from first-hand experience, they demonstrate that alcohol isn’t essential to having fun and having a balanced, enjoyable lifestyle.”

Whether you quit the booze in February or not, maybe it’s time for an audit on your alcohol consumption in general.

Have you ever given up the drink for a month or longer? Does binge drinking after abstaining for a month defeat the purpose? What do you think is healthy drinking behaviour?

Other articles:

How much alcohol is too much?

Non-Alcoholic Mango Margarita

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