Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre (WRAD) says Dry July in 2020 is more important than ever as people battle with the challenges of COVID-19.

WRAD is promoting the annual campaign as an important initiative to get people back on track after an upswing in alcohol use in recent months.

The spike in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is concerning WRAD which believes there could be long-term implications and people could use Dry July to take a break and reset their alcohol use.

Whilst alcohol is the focus of ‘dry July”, WRAD is also concerned about rising misuse of prescription medication, and other illicit drugs, which potentially lead to more health problems, homelessness and domestic violence.

WRAD operations manager Mark Powell said the COVID-19 restrictions had led to large increases in purchasing and consumption of alcohol.

A recent poll by the Australian Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education highlighted worrying trends for Australians. One in five households reported buying more alcohol than usual since the COVID-19 outbreak and in those households 70 per cent reported drinking more alcohol than usual since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Thirty two per cent are concerned with the amount of alcohol either they or someone in their household is drinking, 34 per cent say they are now drinking alcohol daily, 28 per cent report drinking alcohol to cope with anxiety and stress and on their own, 24 per cent have ended up drinking more than they thought they would, and 20 per cent started drinking alcohol earlier in the day.

While there are no statistics to confirm additional consumption in the Warrnambool region, anecdotally, WRAD has noticed increasing community concerns about alcohol use and an increase in presentations to WRAD.

“The fact that people are not having to leave home for work or having to drive as much has led to spikes in drinking on weekdays when people normally wouldn’t be drinking,” Mr Powell said. “WRAD is concerned what the possible implications might be going forward for our community.”

“Routines have changed. Whereas Friday and Saturday nights used to be the nights to have a drink, now some people think they can drink any night and not have to worry about going to work the next day.”

Mr Powell said concern about the virus and boredom were also significant factors in the increased consumption.

“We’re worried because the longer the crisis goes on, the greater the risk of people developing habits that are difficult to change. Dry July gives people an opportunity to reset and take a break from drinking and check if they have capacity to stop when they want.”

Mr Powell said “dry month” promotions were shown to work internationally.

A University of Sussex study showed that taking part in ‘Dry January’ led to overall drops in drinking days, overall amounts of alcohol consumed and frequency of drinking also dropped. The research showed benefits such as 93 per cent of participants had a sense of achievement; 88 per cent saved money; 80 per cent felt more in control of their drinking; 70 per cent had generally improved health; 67 per cent had more energy; 58 per cent lost weight; and 57 per cent had better concentration;

“WRAD’s vision is to advance the health and wellbeing of those in the south west affected by substances and promote optimal quality of life and we believe the benefits of a “Dry July” are evident and we encourage people to take this opportunity to abstain from alcohol for a month,” Mr Powell said.
“It has been our experience that for many people addiction is a slow onset and it’s not until they try to stop that they realise the hold that alcohol or drugs has on them.”

WRAD will support the community and those individuals in regaining control for their wellbeing. “We want people to give ‘Dry July’ a try but if you find it harder than you thought contact WRAD on 1300 009723 to learn more about ways to manage substance use.