Tips for Avoiding Drugs and Alcohol for the Holidays

The holiday season can be a fun time to celebrate and bond with friends and family. But for some, holidays can lead to unwanted stress and increased access to drugs and alcohol — both of which are factors that can be highly problematic and worrisome for those who are susceptible to addiction or in recovery from addiction.

Here are some holiday statistics for drug and alcohol abuse, and what you can do to reduce your risk for substance abuse this holiday season.

Statistics on Drug Abuse During the Holidays

  • Unintentional drug overdoses in December 2016 made up roughly 83% of all drug-related deaths that month, which was higher than the year’s average of 81%.
  • There were 280 fatal alcohol poisonings in January 2016 and 253 fatal alcohol poisonings in December 2016 — the highest death tolls of all other months that same year.
  • Alcohol use in the U.S. during the month of December is about 70% higher than during all other weeks of the year.
  • Roughly 25% of the people who died in auto crashes during December 2016 were in crashes related to alcohol use.
  • Every year between Christmas and New Year, an average of 300 people die from alcohol-related auto accidents.

Holiday Triggers for Drug Abuse

During the holidays, many people tend to overextend themselves emotionally, physically, and financially in an effort to satisfy their loved ones and to live up to certain holiday expectations — such as throwing the best party or buying the perfect gifts. Stressors such as these can easily lead to drug and alcohol abuse as people rely on these substances to numb and erase anxiety, stress, guilt, and other negative emotions.

Common triggers for holiday drug abuse include the following:

  • Feeling forced or pressured to attend family and social functions
  • Buying gifts that strain your financial budget
  • Being expected to prepare elaborate meals, parties, and celebrations
  • Traveling to visit friends and family
  • Spending time with friends and relatives you don’t get along with
  • Reuniting with estranged friends and family
  • Feeling pressured to take part in family traditions involving alcohol
  • Spending time around relatives who use addictive prescription drugs like opioids

Avoiding Drug Abuse During the Holidays

Getting caught up in drug and alcohol abuse during the holidays can be easy — especially when you attend numerous parties, celebrations, and events where these substances are accessible. But drug and alcohol use that gets out of hand during the holidays can lead to binge drinking, auto accidents, overdose, addiction, financial strain, and many other serious problems that can compromise your livelihood.

Tips for avoiding drug abuse during the holidays include:

  • Maintain realistic expectations of yourself and others during the holidays.
  • Plan parties and celebrations ahead of time, and don’t overdo it.
  • Stick to a budget for food, gifts, and holiday-related events.
  • Create your own new holiday traditions that don’t involve drugs and alcohol.
  • Communicate only with others about your desire to limit or avoid the use of drugs and alcohol.
  • Attend daily or weekly support group meetings to stay on track with recovery if overcoming drug or alcohol addiction.
  • Seek medical detox, counseling, therapy, and other treatments at drug or alcohol rehab if you relapse.