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Many people abstain from alcohol during the month of October to benefit their health and help raise money for cancer. Leah Flores/Stocksy
  • During the month of October, some people may choose to abstain from alcohol for all 31 days for “Sober October.”
  • The term originated in the United Kingdom to benefit cancer.
  • Research shows younger generations appear to be drinking less, but cannabis use is increasing.
  • Experts say taking a break from alcohol benefits your overall health, even temporarily.

This month people around the globe will choose to give up alcohol in honor of “Sober October.”

The idea of Sober October started in the United Kingdom to raise money for people with cancer.

Sober October is a 31-day challenge, and money raised goes toward Macmillan Cancer Support.

But even if you do not participate in the official challenge, Sober October is a healthy way to reset your body and help you reevaluate your relationship with alcohol.

“There are many improved health effects that happen as a result of giving up alcohol for a month,” Ashley Loeb Blassingame, co-founder and Chief People Officer of Lionrock Recovery, told Healthline. “While some are person-specific, many are universal.”

According to Loeb Blassingame, the health benefits of abstaining from alcohol for a month include:

  • improved sleep quality
  • improved memory
  • better immune function
  • reduced risk of cancer

Some people may also experience improvements in their heart health and weight loss.

“In general, after four weeks, an improved immune system and memory, mood changes, weight loss, clearer skin, a lack of impulsivity, and behavioral changes are some of the advantages of eliminating alcohol for a short period of time,” Dr. Lawrence Weinstein, chief medical officer for American Addiction Centers, told Healthline.

“There are also neurological benefits of abstaining from alcohol. Some can be seen within a week of alcohol cessation, but are much more noticeable after a month’s time.”

Sober October presents a unique opportunity to assess our relationships with whatever substances we gravitate toward. Giving up alcohol or cannabis for 30 days can dramatically affect your day-to-day life.

Staying sober for a month could also help break an addictive cycle and allow you to sit with whatever emotions arise rather than masking them with substances.

“Many people decide that abstinence is working for them and want to continue on and see what other benefits might come as a result of their experiment,” said Loeb Blassingame. “This leads some people to full-on sobriety and others to longer periods of sober exploration.”

The important part, she noted, is that there has to be a long enough break in the cycle for the brain to create new neural pathways.

“The value is in breaking the cycle and creating an extended experience of abstinence that demonstrates to the brain that the idea is viable. Additionally, it gives people enough time to reexamine their relationship with alcohol and attempt to have better boundaries around it when they choose to return,” Loeb Blassingame said.

“What we do know is that people who are unable to commit and sustain a period of 30 days abstinence are likely working on a more significant problem with substance use.”

Weinstein noted that when it comes to alcohol, “it’s important for individuals to honestly assess the role that alcohol consumption plays in their lives” and to “remain aware of when alcohol is consumed and why.”

“Is a drink needed after work, or does consumption increase over the weekend? Being mindful of these things can help identify a pattern in behavior that can shed light on a potentially problematic relationship that may require treatment,” Weinstein explained.

Even outside of October, young people appear to be drinking less. The new generation of college-age Americans is opting out of beer pong and opting in to abstinence from alcohol.

“Younger generations have not bought into the idea that they must consume alcohol in order to be seen as cool,” said Loeb Blassingame. “The willingness to conform to the millennial drinking culture has shifted and abstaining from alcohol is more and more normal.”

According to research published inJAMA Pediatrics, between 2002 and 2018, the number of adults ages 18 to 22 in the U.S. who do not consume alcohol increased to 28%, up from 20%. The percentage was up 30% from 24% for those who were not in college.

While the study did not explore the reasons why young Americans seem to be decreasing their alcohol intake, experts have a few theories.

“There has also been some research that indicates that Gen Z is a bit more health-conscious,” said Loeb Blassingame.

The research also found that while younger Americans are decreasing their alcohol consumption, there has been a rise in the co-use of alcohol and cannabis. For example, the authors of the JAMA Pediatrics study suggest that these changes could be associated with the increase in the number of people in that age group who still live at home.

Cannabis use disorder is four to seven times more likely to develop in individuals who begin using the drug before age 18.

“I also believe that younger generations are more isolated and inundated by content from the internet that is interwoven into the fabric of their lives,” Loeb Blassingame noted. “As a result, I think that younger people are more comfortable smoking or ingesting cannabis alone, increasing its popularity.”

Although the study did not show that non-disordered cannabis use was problematic, some experts might say that using cannabis is not necessarily “better” than drinking.

“The narrative that cannabis is relatively harmless is one that persists from when THC potency was around 2% in the 70s and 80s,” said Loeb Blassingame. “Between 1995 and 2015, there was a 212% increase in THC content in marijuana.”

Getting help with addiction

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website offers recovery resources such as information about addiction, a treatment services locator, a free 24-hour informational helpline, and more.

Was this helpful?

Sober October is an opportunity to give up drinking for a month — whether to help raise money for cancer or simply benefit your health.

Experts say abstaining from alcohol for 30 days can have many positive health benefits and help break patterns of addiction.

While younger generations appear to drinking less, more people seem to be using other substances like cannabis.

People concerned about their alcohol consumption may consider therapy and other support groups.