Dealing with alcohol abuse during the holidays

Though people who abuse alcohol are not necessarily alcoholics, as many as 9 in 10 Americans who drink too much do not have the classic symptoms of alcoholism but prefer binge drinking instead. Alcohol abuse of this kind involves far fewer drinks than most people realize, and as the holidays come closer, the number of people who binge drink grows.

According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), having 5 or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days is considered binge drinking, and even though someone may not be an alcoholic, drinking in excess on singular occasions can still cause significant health consequences.

How binge drinking affects health

Though binge drinking doesn’t necessarily come with the dependency that alcoholism does, binge drinking cause a number of health consequences, including increasing a person’s risk for certain cancers, anemia, cardiovascular disease, dementia, liver damage, depression, seizures, and gout, among other issues.
“Alcohol does all kinds of things in the body, and we’re not fully aware of all its effects,”  James C. Garbutt, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolin, told WebMD. “It’s a pretty complicated little molecule.”

The statistics of holiday drinking

Holiday drinking doesn’t just hurt the individual, however. Binge drinking has an alarming impact on many other people, some who are just innocent bystanders.
A new statistical report from the analyst company Scram, shows 2-3 times more people die during alcohol-related car accidents during the holiday season compared to any other time of the year. What’s more, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, approximately 25,000 people will be injured as a result of excessive alcohol consumption.
glasses of alcohol
Having more than 5 glasses of alcohol is considered binge drinking. (Shutterstock)

Dealing with holiday binge drinking

Holiday parties and opportunities to binge drink are plentiful for many people, but the key to avoiding the dangers of binge drinking all comes down to acting responsibly. Constance Scharff, Ph.D., and Richard Taite of Psychology Today write: “Think about how much alcohol you will consume before arriving at a party, then stick to your decision. If you find it difficult or uncomfortable to stick to your alcohol consumption plan, that is a red flag of a potentially more serious alcohol issue. If you are the host, offer a wide selection of non-alcohol beverages along with a variety of food to snack on.”

Party-goers should also be respectful of other guests and should never push someone to drink if they initially decline. Similarly, if someone appears too intoxicated, other guests should try to steer that person away from more drinks. If you are the host of a holiday party, always be prepared to allow one or two guests to spend the night if they become unable to drive.