Why Drug and Alcohol-Induced Deaths Spike During Holidays

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Why Drug and Alcohol-Induced Deaths Spike During Holidays

The CDC reports that December, January, and March are the most dangerous times of the year when it comes to drug and alcohol-related deaths.  In fact, since 1999, more than 91,000 substance-related deaths have been reported in the US.  What is it about the holidays that cause drug and alcohol consumption to increase so dramatically?  Let’s take a look at the results of a survey conducted by the CDC to better understand holiday drinking trends.

Holiday Stress Causing an Uptick in Drinking

In the survey conducted by the CDC, more than 84 percent of respondents said they felt overwhelmingly stressed during the holidays.  Although it is difficult to prove that stress causes increased drinking, many people admit that they drink to relieve stress. When a person drinks to reduce stress, they have to drink more because stress actually reduces the intoxicating effects of alcohol.

According to the survey respondents, the holiday stressors that cause heavier drinking include:

  • Financial issues – 29.9%
  • Giving gifts – 23.6%
  • Family problems – 14.1%
  • Too much to do – 13.8%
  • Missing a family member – 9.3%
  • Being lonely – 3.2%

Overall, 15.9% of people said they didn’t feel stressed at all during the holidays.  About 19% said they felt overwhelmingly stressed, and 64.3% felt moderately stressed.

Depression and the Holidays:  Drinking Away the Blues

It’s not unusual to hear someone say that they get depressed during the holidays.  Although about 35 percent of individuals surveyed said they felt happier during the season, at least 25 percent admitted feeling higher levels of depression.

It’s not surprising to note that the reasons for holiday stress are also the reasons for seasonal sadness or depression.  The most common reasons for depression during the holidays include finances, relationship issues, a missing family member, and loneliness.

Drugs and alcohol exacerbate depression because they decrease serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for regulating mood, memory, hunger, sleep and other functions. For this reason, using drugs or alcohol to alleviate depression actually makes it worse. When the person gets caught in the cycle of depression and drinking, suicidal thoughts can occur.

Anxiety and the Holidays:  Why are Americans so Anxious?

The most common mental illness in America today is an anxiety disorder.  Individuals who suffer from depression are also struggling with anxiety.  In the survey mentioned above, the CDC asked respondents about their anxiety levels during the holidays.  Almost 62 percent reported being moderately anxious. Only 18 percent said they felt no anxiety at all.

Why are Americans so anxious, especially during the holidays?  Survey respondents blamed finances, family problems, and a long to-do list contributed to their holiday-induced anxiety.

Holiday Drinking Trends by the Numbers

How much do drug and alcohol consumption change during the holidays?  Below are some statistics on holiday drinking trends.

Gathered by the CDC:

  • 45.1% of people drink the same amount
  • 28.6% consume more alcohol
  • 30.6% of men consumed more
  • 26.7% of women consumed more
  • 30.8% of millennials consumed more
  • 17.9% of baby-boomers consumed more

Of course, we have to congratulate those individuals who get through the holidays without drinking or taking drugs to manage their increased stress or anxiety.  Also, we should acknowledge the many people in recovery from drugs or alcohol who will feel the effects of holiday triggers.

Staying in Recovery During the Holidays

For those individuals who are recovering from alcohol or drug addiction, the holidays can be stressful.  They worry about attending parties where alcohol will be present. It’s hard to imagine having fun without drinking, so the person may feel somewhat depressed and left-out.

For these reasons, we offer some tips for staying sober during the holidays:

  • Work out or get exercise during the holidays
  • Eat healthier foods
  • Get enough sleep
  • Stay busy with hobbies, work, etc.
  • Attend AA or NA meetings or other groups
  • Skip gatherings you feel uncomfortable about
  • Plan your own alcohol-free gatherings
  • Spend more time with sober friends or family

According to the the CDC survey respondents, healthy habits and keeping to a routine are the best ways to manage and avoid holiday temptations.  They also reported that reaching out to others for help during stressful times can be helpful.

If you would like more information about holiday drinking trends, feel free to contact us at A Forever Recovery today.  We will be happy to answer your questions.  Also, if you or someone you know needs treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, we can help.

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