Are You Struggling to Cut Back on Alcohol? Try Damp January

Illustration of woman staying afloat in wine glass

Verywell / Zoe Hansen

Key Takeaways

  • Damp January gives people the opportunity to cut back on alcohol without giving it up completely.
  • Research shows that any amount of alcohol consumption can pose health risks.
  • Damp drinking is not right for everyone, and some say the trend supports the stigma of addiction.

Damp January emerged this year as a less-restrictive version of the Dry January trend, offering the option to drink in moderation instead of abstaining from alcohol completely.

TikTok bartenders jumped on the trend by showcasing low-alcohol drinks made with citrus juice, bitters, soda water, and simple syrup.

“I like to think of bitters kind of like vanilla extract or even kombucha,” Kaitlyn Stewart, who goes by @likeablecocktails on TikTok, said in a video while making a lemon lime and bitters. She explained that the drink only contains a few dashes of bitters, which won’t contribute much to the alcohol percentage.

Sipping low-ABV drinks or trying the Damp January trend can be an entry point for people who want to reduce their alcohol consumption, which largely increased during the pandemic.

“Identifying favorite beverages that are low or no alcohol can be really helpful in not leaning so hard on alcohol for enjoyment,” Katie Witkiewitz, PhD, director of the Center on Alcohol, Substance Use, and Addictions at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, told Verywell in an email.

Even as Damp January comes to a close, some people may not want to return to their previous drinking habits, especially as more research suggests amount of alcohol consumption comes with health risks.

Health Risks of Drinking

Research suggests consistent alcohol use may be linked to health problems like organ and tissue damage, cancer, and shorter lifespan.

While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans still recommend no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction recently updated its recommendations to suggest Canadians consume no more than two drinks per week.

“The risk is very minimally elevated at that level and it goes much higher at higher levels, of course, but this idea ties into Damp January,” Tim Naimi, MD, MPH, director of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria, told Verywell. “For all of us, if we kind of cut back on our drinking, it’s probably really good for our health.”

Damp January May Offer a Reset

Despite the health benefits, some people might be hesitant to cut out alcohol because of the social implications of not drinking.

“If it is bringing some joy, opportunities for social engagement, and is paired with other activities that bring quality of life, then it might be helpful to consider still doing those activities, but drinking less when you drink,” Witkiewitz said.

Experts say Damp January can sometimes serve as a “reset” and give people the opportunity to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol—whether that means only drinking socially or opting for lower-ABV options.

Finding a buddy to keep you accountable or creating new ways of celebrating without alcohol can help someone maintain their damp drinking goals after January.

“The idea is that you want to have specific goals, measurable goals, and you want to choose a goal that’s realistic for yourself,” Naimi said.

But Damp Drinking Is Not For Everyone

“As a sober person, the Damp January trend is frustrating for me,” Gillian Tietz, MS, host of the Sober Powered Podcast in Boston, Massachusetts, told Verywell in an email.

Tietz explained that for people who struggle with alcohol, Damp January can seem to offer hope that moderate drinking is possible.

“I feel that the trend is supporting the stigma of addiction: that it is a choice or a weakness,” Tietz said. “Some people, like me, cannot control how much they drink no matter what they do. And for someone who is trying to moderate without success, it is easier and more sustainable to just have none.”

Relating with others over shared experiences and feelings can be empowering, and Tietz recommends that anyone who wants to reconsider their relationship with alcohol start by immersing themselves in the sober curious community.

Tietz said she has seen amazing benefits both physically and mentally since giving up alcohol in 2019.

“The best benefit by far is improved self-worth,” she said. “I deeply hated myself while I was drinking because I believed everything the stigma says. I thought if I could just be a stronger person, I’d learn to moderate my drinking.”

What This Means For You

Damp drinking can help reset your relationship with alcohol. But it may not be right for everyone, especially for people with alcohol use disorder. If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol use contact a trusted healthcare provider or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Grossman ER, Benjamin-Neelon SE, Sonnenschein S. Alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic: a cross-sectional survey of US adults. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(24):9189. doi:10.3390/ijerph17249189

  2. GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators. Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet. 2018;392(10152):1015-1035. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310-2

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dietary guidelines for alcohol.

  4. Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. Canada’s guidance on alcohol and health.