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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