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Holiday Alcohol Use: Myths and Facts

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When Americans celebrate, they usually include alcohol in the festivities. The tradition of holiday alcohol use is centuries old with no hint of stopping anytime in the near future.  But, why do people drink more when getting together with others? The reasons differ from person to person, but typically, it’s all about having more fun.  

Let’s look at the factors that play a role in this behavior, especially during the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays.  Understanding the myths and facts about holiday alcohol use may be helpful for you or a loved one during the festive season.

Holiday Alcohol Use: Surprising Statistics

Holiday Alcohol UseThe combination of good cheer and an abundance of alcohol can cause some people to take the fun too far.  It’s not unusual for someone to make bad decisions after boozing it up at a Christmas or New Year’s party.  Not only are holidays and alcohol a significant law enforcement problem, but also a public health issue.  After taking a look at the statistics, you will see that the results of holiday alcohol use are far from festive.

Did you know that one-fourth of the yearly $49 billion spirits profits are racked up between November and January?  Clearly, people increase their alcohol consumption during holidays.  The holidays also mean more people are driving late at night in bad weather in some states.  Many of those people have been drinking at family gatherings, office parties, or other celebrations commemorating the season.  

Here’s what a survey of 3,000 people over the age of 21 reveals about holiday alcohol use:

  • People surveyed admitted they drink 27% more during the holidays compared to the rest of the year.
  • About one in five admitted to drinking on their days off during the holidays.
  • 17% of respondents said they have booze with breakfast on Christmas Day.
  • About one in four of the people surveyed said they drink stronger liquor than usual during the holidays. For instance, they switch to spirits rather than beer or wine.
  • Approximately a quarter of people in the survey considered themselves to be heavy drinkers during the holiday season.

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that traffic accidents during Christmas Day, 2023, may cause 346 fatalities.  If you’ll be driving, avoid drinking alcohol to ensure the safety of yourself, your family, and those around you.  

Why Do People Drink More During the Holidays?

Holiday alcohol use is nothing new.  People have used alcohol to ramp up the fun during celebrations for centuries.  But, some individuals drink more than others during the festivities and they each have unique reasons for doing so.   

For instance, some individuals struggle with loneliness and stress during the holidays.  Others may be facing financial problems and feel bad for not buying their loved ones expensive gifts.  And, of course, some people have family issues that cause them to feel uncomfortable with each other during the holidays.  Self-medicating with alcohol is an attempt to escape these feelings.

Myths vs. Facts About Holiday Alcohol Use

Holiday drinking is often justified by the idea that it is temporary.  In truth, overindulging during the holidays can make the body crave more alcohol than usual.  Continued overindulgence can increase your tolerance level, leading to alcohol dependence or addiction.  

Below are some of the myths vs. facts about alcohol you should know to avoid overdoing it at your next celebration:

Myth:  Strong coffee will sober you up.

Fact:  There are no quick cures for drunkenness.  Although caffeine will help with drowsiness, it will not improve your coordination or decision-making.  Alcohol is metabolized slowly by the body.

Myth:  Alcohol keeps you warm so you don’t need to bundle up if it’s cold outside.

Fact:  Alcohol makes you feel warm because it widens tiny blood vessels under the skin.  However, despite how warm you feel, your body temperature is dropping because alcohol depresses the area of your brain that regulates temperature.  As a result, you can suffer hypothermia if you aren’t properly dressed for cold weather.

Myth:  It’s okay to drive if you’re not acting erratically or slurring your speech.

Fact:  Alcohol compromises the coordination needed for driving safely long before you show signs of intoxication or slowed reaction time.  Drinking also compromises your ability to pay attention and puts you at risk of nodding off while driving.

If You Plan to Drink, Plan Ahead

Remember, just because you stop drinking, you won’t begin to sober up right away.  Alcohol continues to affect your brain and body long after you finish that last drink.  The alcohol in your stomach and intestine will continue to enter your bloodstream for quite a while after you stop drinking.  As a result, you will experience impaired judgment and coordination for several hours after the last drink.

Don’t underestimate the effects of alcohol.  Everyone reacts differently.  If you have a friend who can drink large amounts without passing out, don’t assume you can do the same.  

Before celebrating the holidays with alcohol, plan ahead with these tips:  

  • Ask the host if they will have alcohol-free beverages available, or bring your own.  
  • Be sure to eat something.  Food can help slow the rate of alcohol absorption.
  • Plan to have a designated driver or take an Uber or taxi home.

If you find that you can’t control your holiday alcohol use, it may be a sign that you have alcohol dependence or addiction.  

Treatment for Alcoholism at Design for Change Recovery

Alcohol use disorder leads to a variety of health problems if left untreated.  You can protect your health with our evidence-based alcohol treatment program at Design for Change.  Our full continuum of care targets the emotional, mental, and physical factors that trigger alcohol abuse.  

With a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan, we help you not only stop alcohol use but improve your overall well-being.

Design for Change provides affordable treatment by working in-network with many major insurance companies.  We will verify your insurance and work with the insurer to arrange the highest quality program for your needs.  

Contact our Lancaster, CA facility by phone, email, or online to speak with a treatment advisor.  

Sources: – NSC Injury Facts: Holiday Traffic Fatality Estimate – The Truth About Holiday Spirits

Holiday Alcohol Use: Myths and Facts