As we prepare for the holidays, our minds are filled with images of family celebrations. We look forward to getting together with friends and relatives we haven’t seen in a while. We go about the festivities without a single thought for those who suffer during this joyful season. Far too many people become depressed during the holidays for many reasons. Others struggle with high stress during this busy time of year. Unfortunately, these individuals often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. As a result, the CDC has declared December, January, and March as the deadliest months for substance-induced deaths. Let’s take a look at some of the CDC’s findings to understand better why the holidays and booze are not always a good idea.
Why the Holidays are the Most Dangerous Time of Year
Did you know that since 1999, more than 91,000 drug- and alcohol-related deaths were reported for December? What happens during December to cause such a large uptick in the number of deaths?
According to a survey conducted by the CDC, the majority of Americans are highly stressed during the holidays. Results of the survey show that more than 25.4% of respondents admitted to feeling more depressed this time of year. The top 5 reasons for their depression are as follows:
- Financial issues – 32.5%
- Relationship problems – 21.9%
- Missing someone who passed away – 14.4%
- Loneliness – 9.5%
- Too much to do – 8.4%
Anxiety and stress also play a role in higher levels of depression during the holidays. As mentioned before, stress and depression often lead to increased alcohol or drug consumption. But, this “solution” often makes their depression worse. This happens because alcohol decreases serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin regulates mood, hunger, memory, sleep and other functions. Using alcohol to dampen feelings of depression often has the opposite effect. In many cases, the holidays and booze combination can lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Holidays and Booze: Trends by the Numbers
Holiday alcohol consumption adversely impacts millions of individuals and families every year. To get a better idea the how significantly the numbers change this time of year, the CDC released these results of their survey:
- 28.6% of respondents said they drink more alcohol during the holidays
- 30.6% of men said they consumed more alcohol
- 26.7% of women said they increased their alcohol intake
- 30.8% of millennials increased their alcohol intake
- 17.9% of baby boomers said they drank more during holidays
Of course, much of this increased drinking is the result of attending more parties than usual during the holidays. Also, stress and depression play a role in the increased numbers. As a result, the number of drug and alcohol-related deaths climb during the season.
How the Holidays Affect People Who are in Recovery
The festive atmosphere surrounding the holidays can be a challenge for anyone who is in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. They often fear to go to parties that could present triggers. But, if they don’t go to the party, they feel left out and can become depressed. With this in mind, the CDC asked respondents who were in recovery how they feel overall during the holidays. Here are some of the results:
- 27.2% said they felt happier during the holidays
- 38.4% said they felt more depressed
- 60.8% felt moderately stressed
- 27.3% felt overwhelmingly stressed
- 55.4% said they felt moderately anxious
- 31.8% felt overwhelmingly anxious
These responses reveal that stress, anxiety, and depression are heightened during this time of year. This can be a considerable challenge for a person who is recovering from addiction. With so many triggers to deal with over a short period, it can be difficult to maintain their sobriety.
Maintaining Sobriety During the Holidays
The CDC recommends the following tips for staying sober while dealing with the holidays and booze-related events:
- Work out or get regular exercise daily
- Stick with healthy foods and snacks
- Get enough sleep
- Spend time with family and friends
- Skip gatherings that you are uncomfortable about
- Keep to your routine as much as possible
- Attend AA, NA, or other meetings for added support
- Reach out for help if you feel inclined to partake in alcohol
These tips were shared by the participants of the CDC survey in hopes that someone will benefit.
At Behavioral Rehabilitation Services, we understand how stressful the holidays and booze can be for someone in recovery. We hope the above information will help you stay on your path to sobriety and enjoy the holidays without incident.