The holiday season is a time of joy, but for some it also brings stress and an unhealthy temptation to overindulge in drinking. Thomas Britton, CEO and board member at American Addiction Centers, notes that holidays often lead to increases in stress, isolation and depression. These factors can contribute to alcohol poisoning, binge drinking and car accidents.
To help avoid these issues during the festive season, Britton recommends having a buddy on hand to celebrate with you and planning a strategy that allows you to exit any situation where it becomes too easy to give in to temptation. By looking after yourself this way, you can truly enjoy the festive period without worrying about the consequences of binging on alcoholic drinks.
Knowing how much alcohol is in a standard drink is important for keeping track of how much you consume. A typical serving of beer contains 12 ounces and 5 percent alcohol, while a glass of wine contains 5 ounces with 12 percent alcohol - both of these exceed the daily amount suggested by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
A shot of distilled spirits or liqueur has fewer servings at 1½ ounces but can contain up to 40 percent alcohol by volume, depending on the type of liquor. It's smart to keep an eye on your drinks, as they can have varying amounts of alcohol and not all measurements are created equal!
The Reframe app can help you keep track of your drinks so you can truly enjoy the holiday season without overindulging.
How much is too much?
Moderation is the key when it comes to drinking. For most adults, this means no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for males and one per day for females, totaling 7 or 14 drinks a week. Thomas Britton from American Addiction Centers emphasizes that drinking should never be done in an excessive manner — if someone has five or more drinks in one night (for men, or four or more for women), they have saturated themselves with alcohol and are at risk of developing substance abuse problems.
The CDC defines heavy drinking as 15 drinks a week for men and eight drinks a week for women. It's important to remember that even though you can legally drink after turning 21, it doesn't mean you should consume alcohol frequently.
What is binge drinking?
Binge drinking is a major issue, especially during the holiday season and during times of isolation such as the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CDC, while most people who engage in binge drinking do not have an alcohol use disorder, it can increase the risk of developing one.
This risk is further compounded by other susceptibility factors such as loneliness and mental health conditions, which are often active during the holidays or during long-lasting isolation measures. Therefore, it's important to be aware of the risks associated with binge drinking and take precautions when engaging in activities that might lead to it.
The Holiday Effect
During the holidays, drinking alcohol is often seen as an integral part of socializing and celebrating. However, alcohol sales peak between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, meaning that more people are consuming more alcohol during this period. Britton suggests that emotional states often contribute to excessive drinking during this time of year; when familial dynamics become difficult or stressful, people may turn to alcohol in order to cope.
Substance use can act as a buffer for some emotionally charged situations, allowing individuals to get through the issue without addressing the root cause. It is no surprise more individuals consume alcohol during holidays due to both sociability and emotional need.
Establishing an escape plan can help. Start by being mindful of where you spend the holidays and ask yourself whether that space creates problems. If a New Year's Eve party with an abundance of alcohol isn't a supportive environment, opt for an alternative or ask your family to abstain from drinking in respect for your recovery efforts. Bringing a friend or another person who is cutting back to the event can provide an additional sense of support and understanding.
It is also important to recognize your limits and be prepared with a strategy for leaving when needed; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) director Dr. George Koob recommends going for a walk or leaving if necessary.
Holiday Heart Syndrome
Holiday heart syndrome is a condition affecting those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol. First coined in 1978, holiday heart syndrome is a term used to describe abnormal heart rhythms due to excessive alcohol consumption, although its symptoms don’t only appear during festive holidays or weekends. In fact, even healthy individuals can experience palpitations or irregular heartbeats as a result of heavy drinking—regardless of the time of year.
Studies have made note of the link between arrhythmia and alcohol consumption but have found that the association isn’t always long-term, clearing up shortly after abstaining from drinking altogether. All things considered, this combined with increased holiday DUIs and car accidents should leave no doubt—alcohol certainly doesn’t bring cheer when consumed to excess.
Holidays can be a time for joy and celebration, but for those with heart conditions, the excessive drinking that often accompanies the season can worsen their condition or lead to life-threatening complications. Research has shown holiday heart syndrome leads to complications such as ventricular arrhythmias andatrial fibrillation.
In extreme cases, even cardiac arrest may occur due to prolonged alcohol intake. Long-term effects include new or worsening heart failure, dangerous arrhythmias, community-acquired pneumonia and even death. Therefore it’s best to always consult a doctor before engaging in any activities that could pose health risks over the holidays!
Holidays can be difficult for people who don't drink, as they are usually filled with toasts and alcoholic beverages. It doesn't mean that the festivities need to revolve around drinking. Many hosting experts recommend stocking up on non-alcoholic drinks like mocktinis and mocktails as an alternative.
The holiday season can be a time of great joy, but it also brings stress and temptation. Learning how to deal with the triggers for drinking can help you have a happy and healthy holiday season. The Reframe app is an excellent tool that can help you keep track of your drinking and supports you with fun activities every day.