The rise in alcohol consumption during the holiday season can lead to a range of adverse effects, including impaired judgment and coordination, increased risk of accidents and injuries, and long-term health consequences.
The Holiday Season and Alcohol Consumption
A significant increase in alcohol consumption is often seen over the holiday season due to numerous social gatherings, celebrations, and festivities. This holiday period, characterized by Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, etc., encourages a more relaxed environment where people are more likely to consume alcoholic beverages. This increase in alcohol consumption is often facilitated by the festive atmosphere, the influence of social events, or stress and emotional factors.
Drinking alcohol is a common way people celebrate, whether it’s the holidays, a birthday, a wedding, or a new job. While holiday drinking might seem harmless for some, it can also be used as a coping mechanism for those struggling with loss during the holidays, increased stress, or emotional strain. Stress drinking can lead to higher alcohol intake, increasing the risk of dangerous behaviors and driving under the influence. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are more motor vehicle traffic crash fatalities during the holidays than non-holiday periods.
Some individuals might also feel tempted or pressured to drink during the holidays because everyone around them is, which is also potentially dangerous for those who aren’t familiar with alcohol’s effects or their tolerance levels. The holiday season can be incredibly triggering for those in addiction recovery, as many friends and family members might be drinking or have alcohol nearby.
The Effects of Alcohol on Cognitive and Physical Abilities
Before consuming alcohol, it’s critical to understand the impact it has on both physical and cognitive abilities, as it can lead to various risks and dangers. The effects of alcohol revolve around the amount consumed, which means the impact intensifies the more someone drinks. The most common effects of alc0hol include:
- Impaired judgment and decision-making
- Lack of coordination
- Reduced motor skills
- Slow reaction times
- Impaired vision
- Poor focus and concentration
- Heightened emotions
- Poor memory
- Reduced sensitivity to pain
Alcohol affects the brain’s communication pathways responsible for decision-making and judgment, leading to cognitive impairment, which can cause poor choices such as drunk driving or engaging in risky activities. The impact of alcohol on the cerebellum affects coordination and balance, leading to clumsiness and trouble walking or standing, increasing the risk of falls and accidents. Consuming alcohol slows down the brain’s processing speed and delays reaction times, which can be especially dangerous in situations requiring quick responses, such as driving a car. Alcohol can impair vision by affecting visual acuity, depth perception, and peripheral vision. This can lead to blurred or double vision, making navigating and perceiving potential hazards on the road more difficult. The inability to focus and concentrate under the influence of alcohol can affect performance in a variety of activities and tasks.
Drinking alcohol can also heighten emotions or cause mood swings, aggressive behavior, sadness, anxiety, or antisocial behavior. High levels of alcohol intake can provoke memory impairment, leading to blackouts, where individuals cannot remember what happened when they were intoxicated. Alcohol reduces the mind and body’s perception of pain by weakening the senses. This can be dangerous as people under the influence may not recognize injuries or the severity of a situation.
The Rise of Alcohol-Related Accidents and Injuries During the Holidays
While the holiday season is entirely of celebration, family time, and a time for new traditions and memories, it is also a time when individuals make poor decisions while drinking. Car accidents during the holidays are a significant public health concern due to hazardous weather conditions and drunk driving. With more people consuming alcohol, there is a corresponding increase in reckless driving, leading to a higher rate of DUI’s, traffic accidents, and injuries. In the United States, 32 people are killed every day in car crashes by alcohol-impaired drivers. In 2021, there were 13,384 traffic deaths due to alcohol-impaired driving in the U.S.
There are generally more social gatherings and celebrations where alcohol is present, leading to higher overall alcohol consumption during the holidays. Drinking alcohol can lower inhibitions and reinforce aggression, increasing domestic conflict and public disturbances. The impaired coordination and judgment experienced when drinking can cause more accidental injuries during holiday festivities. This includes tripping or falling, burns (when cooking or around open fires), and unintentional injuries from mishandling objects. Holiday activities like hiking, swimming, and skiing can become hazardous when combined with alcohol, leading to a higher risk of injuries and accidents.
The festive environment, along with social pressures or emotional strain, can provoke individuals to consume an excessive amount of alcohol, potentially leading to alcohol-induced blackouts, alcohol poisoning, and other health emergencies. Holidays may also cause alcohol consumption among younger individuals or those who are not regular drinkers due to it being easily accessible at holiday events. Irregular drinkers and young people are generally more susceptible to the effects of alcohol and less aware of their limits and tolerance levels.
Promoting Alcohol-Free Events for a Safer Holiday Season
Holiday celebrations can still have the same fun, enjoyable environment without the consumption or presence of alcohol. Creating an alcohol-free holiday event emphasizes inclusivity and the value of community and shared experiences. This can be done by providing non-alcoholic drinks and holiday-themed mocktails to make it feel more festive. Incorporate fun activities and games highlighting the importance of engagement and building connections rather than drinking alcohol. Alcohol-free environments are generally more family-friendly, making them safer and more suitable for all ages.
Promoting a sober-friendly holiday event also encourages friends and family members who might feel uncomfortable around alcohol or are in addiction recovery to attend. The holiday season is a special time for creating new traditions, bonding families and communities, and allowing for rest. Organizing an alcohol-free holiday event not only promotes a safer environment, preventing alcohol-related accidents and injuries but also fosters a sense of togetherness amongst family members and friends.
The holidays can be an emotionally and physically draining time of the year for many individuals, especially those in recovery or struggling with addiction. You don’t have to navigate a drug or alcohol addiction all alone; Coastal Detox is here for you! Reach out to us today to start on your road to recovery.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2023 The Truth About Holiday Spirits.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2019 Traffic Safety Facts: Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Fatalities for the Holiday Periods of 2019.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2022 Alcohol and the Brain: An Overview.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022. Transportation Safety: Impaired Driving.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Drunk Driving.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2023 Interrupted Memories: Alcohol-Induced Blackouts.