Substance Abuse and the Holidays
For many people, the end of the year brings images of happy families gathered around a Christmas tree, big dinners & holiday music. For others, the holidays can be a much darker and more difficult time – a time of family conflict, financial strain, loneliness and grief.
If you find the holidays to be an emotionally difficult time, you are certainly not alone. A Google search for “grief and the holidays” shows nearly 2.2 million results.
During the holiday months of December and January, the CDC reports that alcohol-and-drug-induced deaths spike.
For someone struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, the holidays can be an especially trying time to maintain sobriety. A 2011 study found that stress ca
n reduce the intoxicating effects of alcohol – therefore individuals who drink to reduce stress actually need to drink more to feel the relaxing effects of intoxication, which may result in over-consumption.
Seasonal stressors only paint part of the dark holiday portrait. Depression also takes hold during the holiday months. The effects of depression can be detrimental on many levels, and may be a contributing factor to the rise in alcohol and drug-related deaths during the holiday season. Research has found that there is a strong link between the overconsumption of alcohol and depression.
Chronic, heavy alcohol use affects brain chemistry – more specifically, it decreases serotonin, a chemical that researchers say regulates mood, hunger, memory, sleep and many other important functions. Using alcohol to dampen feelings of depression typically results in the opposite effect – a deeper spiral into sadness. Many individuals are caught in a cycle of depression and drinking that can be difficult to escape.
It’s no surprise that holiday stress, depression, and anxiety are all heightened for those facing addiction or recovery. Studies have revealed that seasonal affective disorder is linked to addiction.
Take Care of Yourself This Holiday Season
Holidays can be stressful, difficult, and even dangerous, especially when it comes to drug and alcohol use.
For a safe and happy holiday, it’s important to be aware of the dangers, triggers, and strategies needed to keep anxiety, depression, stress, and addiction under control.
If it all gets to be too much, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help!