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The Do's & Don'ts Of Holiday Drinking

Deborah Rasso
Written by Deborah Rasso
The Do's & Don'ts Of Holiday Drinking

'Tis the season to be jolly? Sure, as long as you don't get carried away. Alcohol use increases dramatically during the holidays and can lead to serious heartache. Parties abound, and it becomes more acceptable to drink. However, most people don't realize that alcohol and drug use cause a higher rate of casualties during the holidays. Two to three times more people die in alcohol-related crashes during the holidays.

It doesn't take many drinks to be too many drinks. Most people are not aware of the effect alcohol has on decision-making ability, reaction time, and general behavior. Depth perception is greatly affected by alcohol. How many drinks can you have before safely driving? Ideally, NONE. Alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after your last drink. In fact, your judgment is impaired for several hours after you put down the last glass. Even the hangover the next day can impair your ability to drive.

Here are the do's and don'ts for surviving holiday parties.

1. Don't have more than one drink per hour.

If a person must drive after a party, have no more than one standard-size drink per hour. This would equal either one 5-ounce glass of wine, one 12-ounce beer, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor (either straight or mixed in a drink). You might try drinking a nonalcoholic beverage in between alcoholic drinks. If you have had more than one standard-size drink per hour, don't get behind the wheel. Your chances of being in an alcohol-related accident increase dramatically with every two drinks you consume.


2. Do drink coffee (although it won't sober you up).

Coffee can make you feel more alert, sure. But it's a common misconception that if you drink it, you will be able to drive. Coffee does not lower the blood alcohol level. Coffee does not "sober you up." Call a taxi, call a friend, or just stay where you are. Better safe than sorry.

Drinking and driving carries other costs as well. If you get a DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) arrest, you can lose either your freedom or a great deal of money hiring an attorney. Many people have paid well over $10,000 to stay out of jail after a DUI arrest. Often it is necessary to go into an inpatient treatment facility to avoid jail time. This type of arrest is most common between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

3. Do have a designated driver.

If you do plan to drink at a party, it is always a good idea to have a designated driver. This person should have no alcoholic drinks or any other mind-altering substances, so they will not put anyone at risk when they transport you and others home.

4. Do remember to consider the needs of others.

For someone in recovery from alcoholism or any other substance addiction, the holidays can be a special challenge to their continued sobriety. Many family members and friends don't realize that the recovering addict must be completely abstinent from mind-altering substances regardless of whether they were addicted to alcohol or to drugs. Don't offer your recovering friend an alcoholic drink or marijuana (which is now recreationally legal in some states). This will put them at risk for relapse.


5. Do put your sobriety first when you're in recovery.

If you are in recovery and are attending parties where you will be exposed to alcohol or drugs, take a few precautions such as taking sober support with you, making sure you have a nonalcoholic drink in your hand, and having an escape plan in the event you are triggered to want to drink. Always remember to "play the tape through," which means, think of the end result if you relapse.

6. Do take care of your guests when you're hosting.

When hosting your holiday party, host responsibly. Make sure that you offer nonalcoholic beverages to your guests. Have snack or hors d’oeuvres available, and encourage drinking friends to eat. If you know your party attendee has had too much to drink, don't let them drive. Call a cab, an Uber, a Lyft or have a sober guest give them a ride.


7. Do step in if someone needs help.

If you know someone who drinks and drives frequently, or abuses some other mind-altering substance, they may need help finding motivation to stop. You can find support from local Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Al-Anon meetings (for the family), a substance abuse treatment center, or a local therapist specializing in addictions.

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