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Sharp Health News

What does it mean to be ‘sober curious’?

Nov. 14, 2019

What does it mean to be ‘sober curious’?
“All the cool kids are doing it.” That’s what the hooligan in the after-school specials of the ’80s might say when trying to pressure another kid to take a swig of alcohol.

However, the cool kids have grown up and changed their tune. They’re now urging others to join them in the “sober curious” movement — a trend of temporarily abstaining from drinking alcohol.

For those who are diligent about practicing self-care — from meditation to healthy diets, and regular exercise to mindfulness — limiting how much alcohol they drink is a natural next step to improving health and wellness. Bars and restaurants are catching on by offering a variety of alcohol-free “mocktails,” and the nightlife landscape is evolving to offer guests a way to practice “self-care after dark.”

“People should be mindful about alcohol consumption the same way they should be mindful about their diet, tobacco use and exercise choices,” says Dr. Fadi Nicolas, chief medical officer of Sharp Behavioral Health Services. “This is an excellent way to periodically assess your relationship with alcohol as you mature and learn more about your body and your vulnerabilities.”

Damage due to drinking
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, drinking can take a serious toll on your body. Alcohol negatively affects the:
  • Brain — Use of alcohol can lead to mood and behavior changes; worsen anxiety and depression disorders; and impair motor function.
  • Heart — Overuse of alcohol can lead to irregular heartbeat, stroke, high blood pressure and other heart problems.
  • Liver — Heavy drinking can cause alcoholic hepatitis; fibrosis, a progressive scarring of liver tissue; cirrhosis, a late stage of scarring; and fatty liver.
  • Pancreas — Alcohol overuse can lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation of the pancreas’ blood vessels.
  • Immune system — Drinking too much weakens your immune system, putting you at greater risk for disease, including pneumonia, tuberculosis and some cancers.
Along with decreasing your risk of illness, limiting how much you drink — for a weekend, week, month or longer — can help you avoid the risk of alcohol-fueled embarrassments or poor choices, as well as save you money. Time off from imbibing also allows you to enjoy:
  • Improved sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Better concentration
  • Higher energy levels
  • Enhanced performance
  • Improved relationships
  • Healthier skin
A choice, more than a trend
Even enthusiasts of the mommy drinking culture are taking note. While admitting that parenting is difficult, some who formerly turned to alcohol to ease their stress are now sharing the message that being healthy, clear-minded and parenting without a hangover is better than having that drink.

However, Dr. Nicolas offers a couple of caveats about the “sober curious” trend. One of them is to recognize that limiting your alcohol intake should not be a response to wanting to appear more trendy or fashionable. Instead, make an authentic personal choice to truly evaluate your relationship with alcohol.

“This choice is not enough for people who have a severe alcohol use disorder or people who are self-medicating their depression or trauma with alcohol,” Dr. Nicolas says. “These people need to be a lot more aggressive in treating their disorder. For them, it should literally be a life or death situation, not a matter of a trend or a hashtag.”

Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your or a loved one’s use of alcohol or other substances. Sharp McDonald Center, Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital all provide substance use programs to help define a recovery path that works best for you.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Fadi Nicolas about the “sober curious” trend for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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