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Why Does Drug and Alcohol Abuse Spike During the Holidays?

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December is considered one the deadliest months of the year as drunk driving accidents increase. It is also a time when stress and anxiety can increase the rate of depression and drug abuse. Often during this time of year, addicted individuals may ignore their drug or alcohol abuse to not miss out on family gatherings, company parties, and other festivities.

There are many reasons why substance abuse can increase during the holiday season.

  1. Stress. Worrying about gifts, accepting all the invitations that have been extended, money, family get-togethers, and so much more add to the stress of the season. Unfortunately, it is under duress that using drugs or alcohol as a way to handle it all can seem like a logical idea.
  2. Isolation. Whether isolating themselves from family or friends, many feel that their social circle will not accept them if they don’t behave as they did during their addiction. As a result, individuals may isolate themselves during this time of year to avoid social events.
  3. Holiday Grieving. For some, the holidays can be a painful reminder of good or bad memories. They may grieve past behaviors or their past life, while others may not have friends or family to spend the holidays with. This sadness and loneliness could lead to depression and increase the risk of substance abuse.
  4. Lack of Support. The temptation during the holidays is all too common. From alcohol to the encouragement to “just have one,” it can lead to substance abuse and relapse.

Getting Help during the Holiday Season

With so many triggers and temptations during the holiday season, everyone can greatly benefit from support and some tips in dealing with alcohol and drug cravings.

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Talk with the host. If you’re comfortable disclosing your addiction or the host knows of your condition, talk with the party host about what alternatives will be available for non-drinking guests. If you want options, be a gracious guest and bring your own mix of non-alcoholic drinks.

Enjoy sweet treats. Satisfying the part of the brain triggering alcohol cravings can help stave off those triggers. Enjoy some sweet treats when a craving strikes. If you’re worried about holiday weight gain, get some exercise that can also increase your endorphins.
Limit media exposure. Unfortunately, alcohol advertisements become more frequent during this time of year. Limit your exposure to ads as best as possible; you may even want to block specific companies from your social media profiles.

Make a plan. Whether it’s attending festivities with a friend in long-term sobriety or having people you can call when the moment is necessary – be sure to have a plan in mind for handling challenging situations.

Limit your time. Don’t be afraid to attend events and limit your time there. It’s always good to spend time with friends and family, but remember that your health comes first, which means you may not want to be in uncomfortable situations.

Lastly, attend meetings. Destination Hope offers regular alumni and family meetings. Attend meetings as frequently as you need to to get the help and support you need this holiday season.

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