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Alcohol and Drug Abuse Can Spike During Sressful Holiday Season
Friends and family in alcohol, drug recovery programs most vulnerable.
Know how to help yourself and others.
For many, the holiday season means a time of both joy and stress. For those dealing with alcohol and drug abuse tendencies, or are in their first year of recovery, the stress of the holidays can be overwhelming.
“The period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is a time when many drug addicts and alcoholics try to ignore their condition to participate in the camaraderie and festivities of family gatherings, company parties and the like. This behavior typically results in increased drug and alcohol abuse, especially among those who are already addicts,” explains Phil Allen, CEO of The Pat Moore Foundation, a non-profit alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in Orange County, CA.
Studies show that cases of depression, drunk driving accidents, suicide, even domestic violence all increase during the holiday period. Many of these are tied to alcohol and drug abuse typically engaged by people who are trying to cope with holiday stress.
A study published in 2006 by the Centers for Disease Control found that suicide victims frequently tested positive for alcohol or illicit drugs. About 33 percent tested positive for alcohol while another 16 percent tested positive for opiates, 9 percent tested positive for cocaine and 8% tested positive for marijuana.
“Family members can be a great source of support for recovering addicts,” explains Allen. “Planning ahead, designating drivers, being there to help when there’s a craving. All of these are ways family can help recovering addicts from slipping back, especially during the holidays.”
Following are some tips that everyone can use for dealing with alcohol and drug cravings during the holidays:
* Alcohol: Alternatives. Try a refreshing non-alcoholic drink. Mix fruit juice with sparkling water or try a bottled sparkling grape juice or cider. Drink a favorite non-alcoholic mixer complete with garnish. Sip a fruit smoothie (pureed mixed fruit and juices) for an after dinner treat.
* Cravings: Eat Sweet. When a strong craving or urge hits, eat or drink something sweet. Alcohol is a sugar and satisfies that part of the brain that triggers the need for alcohol. This also helps for drug cravings (especially opiates). If weight gain is a concern, take the time to sit down and look at the consequences of drinking or using drugs, and then the consequences of a piece of hard candy or small cookie.
* Parties: Backup Plans. Go with a friend with long-term sobriety to parties where alcohol will be served. Or, line up a few support people who can be called in the moment if necessary. Also, plan to stay for a limited time and park where there’s no chance of being blocked in.
* Stress: Get Rest. Be sure to get not only enough sleep, but enough quiet time. Exercise and walk outside as much as possible. Suggestions for stress release include listen to meditation CD’s, music, massage, exercise, yoga, deep breathing, walking, even avoiding arguments and limiting social and family obligations.
For alcoholics and non-alcoholics alike, alcohol can increase stress, especially during the holidays. It is always important to moderate alcohol intake but especially during the holidays when there are more drinking opportunities, more driving to do, and for some people, loneliness and depression. Alcohol is a depressant, high in calories and low in nutrients. Too much alcohol can make one feel jittery, moody and tired.
Drinking alcohol can also set up dangerous situations. Alcohol can interact in a dangerous way with prescription medications as well as illicit drugs. In addition, half of all traffic deaths in the U.S. are alcohol related.
"When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the usual outcome is sobriety, jail or death," says Allen. “If you recognize you might be dealing with a substance abuse issue, or if you are a friend or family of someone who does, I encourage you to seek help. For many, it can mean the difference of life or death.”
The Pat Moore Foundation is a non-profit alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in Orange County, CA, that provides information, resources and treatment for people dealing with the life-shattering cycle of substance abuse and addiction. If someone needs immediate help, call 24-hours a day at(888) 426-6086 or visit us online at