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Happy Healthy Holidays: Alcohol Awareness

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Kristin Davis

As we meet the end of 2020 - an exceptionally challenging year world wide - we find ourselves navigating the waters of how to ‘holiday’ during a pandemic. The holidays are known to bring as much tension as they can joy, this year perhaps more of the former. While both stress and celebration are motivating factors for alcohol consumption, it is also important to recognize healthcare experts' cautionary warnings of increased reckless behavior during the holiday season that pertain to particular consumer habits and trends. With this in mind, we wanted to offer a 2 part “Happy Healthy Holidays'' series that is aimed to inform, educate and bring awareness to both binge drinking as well as binge eating during the festive season.

The Consequences Of Drinking Too Much 

It really isn’t difficult to understand why binge drinking occurs on holidays. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re having fun and blowing off some steam. That is why the average American experiences a 100% increase in alcohol consumption from Thanksgiving to New Years and in this same period about 69% of people are more likely to overindulge. That being said, alcohol is fine in moderation, but can be dangerous when consumed in excess.

So much so, that there is an average of 6 deaths per day from alcohol poisoning and out of all those cases, only 30% are results of alcohol dependence (alcoholism), meaning that the other 60% are non-dependent. Even if poisoning doesn’t occur, alcohol’s effects on the body should not be taken lightly. Overconsumption of alcohol damages internal organs and again, you do not have to be a diagnosed alcoholic to experience these symptoms. Falling into patterns of binge drinking during back-to-back celebrations is something many people do and often don’t realize is a problem (especially around the holiday season where this behavior is more often normalized). To reiterate, it is perfectly fine to enjoy a few drinks, but if you plan to drink - make sure that you do so in moderation. You’re less likely to binge if you’re mindful about your consumption.

Drinking and Driving Don’t Mix

Excessive drinking is not only hard on the body, but it is also extremely dangerous when paired with motor vehicle operation. Not only do Americans drink a lot during the holidays, they also drive a lot as well which proves to be a very lethal combination. In 2018, from Christmas to New Years, there were 285 reported drunk-driving related fatalities. Not only that, but an average of 27 people die per day, in December alone, due to drunk driving accidents. PsychCentral notes that holiday drinkers tend to have a lower tolerance without realizing it, making them more likely to overestimate their driving capabilities while under the influence, which explains why experts warn to be especially cautious when driving during holiday seasons for both drinkers and non-drinkers alike. 

How To Plan Ahead and Stay Safe

While it may be easy to fall into the trap of overindulgence during the holidays, the good news is that it is also easy to plan ahead and stay safe. The first step is being aware of the dangers and taking them seriously. 

  • Realize that whether you do or don’t have a problem with drinking, you are susceptible to the dangers of alcohol consumption. 
  • Being mindful about your intake and your actual tolerance are critical to helping you keep your alcohol-level under control. 
  • Remember, if you don’t drink regularly or if you are of lighter weight and stature, you probably shouldn’t be consuming more than 1-2 drinks per hour. 
  • Drinking plenty of water, eating before you drink as well as throughout your consumption will greatly help balance your blood/alcohol levels and keep you cognitive. 

To be as safe as possible, if you do plan on drinking - don’t plan on driving. However, if you do plan on driving and end up consuming alcohol, simply call a car service/friend/family member to pick you up or stay the night at the location you’re at. Remember that it isn’t just your life that you put on the line when you get behind the wheel while under the influence and it is simply not worth the risk. Furthermore, if you do not plan on drinking, make sure that your friends and family know that you are someone that they can call if they end up having a bit too much “spiked eggnog” this year.

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