Pandemic or no pandemic, as the years winds down, we are likely to see Americans get out of their regular patterns and get into the spirit of the holiday season. Unfortunately, the “holiday spirit” takes on a different meaning when substances are involved. As you may have already guessed, the problematic use of alcohol and drugs tends to rise during holidays and even on weekends.1,2
Below are some of the patterns of substance misuse that are known to occur during the holidays. If you or someone else in your home has a problem with substance use, you can call us at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers to discuss your treatment options.
1.) Binge Drinking Increases on Holidays and Weekends
Of all the substance misuse that occurs during the holidays, binge drinking is the single biggest problematic behavior. It’s enough of an issue to significantly increase visits to emergency rooms through accidents, violent altercations, and incidences of self-harm.1 While Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s are the times when binge drinking campaigns in the US are at their peak, smaller peaks also occur every weekend.1,2
2.) Young Adults Are The Most at Risk
In the US, young adults aged 18-23 are considered the group most at risk from binge drinking.2 While binge drinking is done by Americans of all ages, young adults are particularly at risk during holidays.2 As mentioned earlier, increases in binge drinking are connected with increases in emergency room visits. Given the young age of this group, deaths and lifelong injuries are often particularly tragic.
3.) Holidays Increase Suicide Risks for People With AUD
Americans with alcohol use disorder (AUD) are at an elevated risk of suicide during holidays and weekends.3,4 The causes for this are likely to be a combination of poor judgment and the exacerbation of mental health issues due to increased alcohol consumption.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has also identified the holidays as a particularly sensitive time for people with mental health issues, which means alcohol use may increase their suicide risks even if they don’t have a current AUD diagnosis.5
4.) Drug Use Increases Unevenly
Alcohol is not the only substance widely misused during holidays. Community wastewater analysis has become an invaluable method for tracking which drugs are being most used by a local population at a given time. Two different wastewater analysis studies specific to holiday drug consumption in Kentucky and Australia have demonstrated that drug use goes up precipitously during weekends and especially during holidays.6,7
Interestingly, in both studies, while the use of most drugs increased, the use of stimulant drugs like cocaine and amphetamines and “party drugs” like MDMA received the largest bump, consistently over twice their weekday consumption rates.6,7 This is likely due to a higher rate of recreational use during these periods. As with alcohol, this increase in drug use is responsible for an increase in emergency room visits during this period.8
5.) Holiday Substance Misuse is a Global Problem
Though there may be slight differences in specific use patterns, the rise in substance misuse is a global phenomenon that likely affects all cultures. A meta-analysis of substance use disorder and treatment has identified increases in substance misuse during holidays and other special observances like funerals as being universal.9 In all the analyzed studies, alcohol is the most misused substance across cultures, by far.
Binge drinking and seasonal drug use may be a sign of a deeper problem. If you or someone you’re close to exhibits this kind of behavior during the holidays or weekends, it may be time to seek professional help. Call our team at +1(214) 453-5663 to discuss your recovery options.