Thousands of Czechs join booze-free ‘Dry February’ campaign

Photo: archive of League of Open Men

The ninth annual ‘Dry February’ (Suchej únor) campaign got underway on Monday, encouraging beer-loving Czechs to abstain from alcohol for the entire month. According to its organizers, the League of Open Men, more than one million people in the Czech Republic are on the verge of “risky consumption”, with the coronavirus crisis having worsened the trend.

Czechs are among the world’s biggest drinkers per capita, with about 15 percent of the population regularly drinking to excess, as defined by the World Health Organization. According to the latest annual report on drug use, 8.5 percent of people over the age of 15 drink alcohol daily or almost daily and 16 percent binge drink.

Petr Freimann, who is in charge of the ‘Dry February’ campaign says the situation has not improved since it was first launched nine years ago:

Petr Freimann,  photo: archive of League of Open Men

“Over the past years, the Czech Republic has placed from the first to the fifth spot in the world regarding alcohol consumption, so it hasn’t been very positive.

“Studies suggest that we have more than one million people who are on the edge of harmful drinking. So our campaign is here to say: Hey, let’s try to stay sober for one month to see if you control alcohol or if alcohol controls you.”

The organizers of ‘Dry February’ encourage Czechs to abstain from alcohol for the full month, saying that it leads to “greater self-awareness, higher energy levels and better sex”.

Although the campaign was initially focused on men, who drink on average at least three times as much as women, Petr Freimann says there is a growing problem with excessive drinking also among women and teenagers:

“The problem is more serious than it appears. There is an interesting phenomenon concerning the issue of women’s drinking. While men mostly drink in the pub, women, who are often at home with children, drink alone.”

According to the organizers of ‘Dry February’, the problem of alcohol consumption has been further aggravated by the Covid-19 crisis, which has confined people to their homes and limited their contacts with family and friends.

“We have participants who are really in trouble because of Covid-19. They have been telling us that ‘Dry February’ is a hope for them to get things back under control.

Photo: archive of League of Open Men

“On the other hand, there are also many people who openly say that alcohol is the last thing they have in this situation, so they are not planning to give it up.”

Last year, the ‘Dry February’ campaign attracted around nine percent of the country’s adult population, with more or less the same proportion of women and men. The organizers are hoping to involve at least the same number of people this year.

To mark the ninth edition of the event, the League of Open Men has also released a book focusing on the problem of alcohol consumption. Among other things, it features interviews with famous Czechs who succeeded in overcoming their addiction.