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Has Your Drinking Gotten Out of Control This Season?

Has Your Drinking Gotten Out of Control This Season?


By Rachel Rabkin Peachman 23 Hours Ago


The holiday season is filled with lots of opportunities to eat, drink, and be (very) merry. But a new survey shows that too much holiday drinking could be a sign of deeper problems. The poll, from Caron Treatment Center, a not-for-profit provider of addiction and behavioral healthcare, asked 2,018 U.S. adults ages 18 and older about their holiday habits, and found that many people are not so jolly after all.


It turns out, 68 percent of the adults surveyed said that they find the holidays exhausting. This may have something to do with the fact that 38 percent of poll respondents said they find it really stressful to see extended family this season, and 32 percent said they have high expectations for the holidays but find themselves disappointed instead.


With all this holiday stress, it’s no wonder that 54 percent of the people polled said they eat more unhealthy foods this time of year, and 16 percent said they drink more now than usual. Among millennials (adults ages 18 to 34) in particular, 28 percent said they increase their drug and alcohol use during the holiday season, and for 16 percent of them, that may be because they reported drinking alcohol as a way to reduce anxiety and stress.


The problem here? Stress-induced excess drinking can be extremely unsafe. For millennials, 71 percent (compared with 54 percent of all adults) said they’ve experienced at least one negative consequence as a result of their alcohol use during the holiday season. The bad outcomes they noted include vomiting, headaches, waking up with a hangover, blacking out, saying things that they later regretted, having sex with someone they would not have if they had been sober, and driving under the influence.


“This is dangerous stuff,” says Harris Stratyner, Ph.D., regional clinical vice president of Caron Treatment Centers and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.


That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail at a holiday gathering, but you may want to think about why you’re drinking before it gets out of control. Remember that alcohol is a nervous system depressant, so if you’re feeling stressed or bummed out, alcohol may not be the salve you hope it to be, and it could, in fact, make you feel worse.


“Drinking responsibly means you’re not going to make a fool of yourself,” says Straytner, “and if you start to think you have a problem with alcohol in your life, and you start to see that you’re building up a pattern of drinking that’s negative, you may be dealing with an alcohol use disorder.”


Bottom line: If you’re worried about your alcohol consumption, try to slow down the drinking this season. “And if you can’t stop, that’s a sign you have a problem,” explains Stratyner. The good news, though, is that there are a number of resources out there that can help. “A lot of people are very reluctant to ask for help, but at Caron and many other places, you can ask for help 24/7,” notes Stratyner.