Holidays can be a fun time to party, celebrate, and come together with friends and family. But for some, the holiday season can be sad, stressful, and depressing — especially for those who are grieving, overcoming trauma, or recovering from a substance or alohol use disorder.

People who struggle during the holiday season are often more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse due to the way these substances can make them feel better and help them find relief. However, drugs and alcohol can often make life’s problems worse, and may even result in death when misused. Using drugs and alcohol responsibly during the holidays or avoiding these substances completely can help you stay safe and reduce your risk of addiction.

Here are recent statistics surrounding substance abuse during the holidays, and how to stay safe and get help at drug rehab if you relapse while in recovery from a substance use disorder.

Holiday Substance Abuse Statistics

  • During the Christmas and New Year holiday season in 2018, there were 285 deaths in the U.S. related to drunk driving, reports the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
  • Alcohol use is 70% higher during the last two weeks of December than at any other time of the year, reports the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
  • In 2018, the number of alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 people in January and December (3,451 and 3,256, respectively) were higher than that for any other month in 2018, reports the CDC.
  • Of the 3,067 people who died in vehicle crashes in December 2016, 25% died in drunk driving accidents, reports the DOT.
  • In December 2018, there were 4,860 unintentional drug overdose deaths and 388 suicide drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people.
  • In December 2018, there were 242 deaths caused by alcohol poisoning per 100,000 people.

Common Holiday Triggers

There are a countless number of triggers that can lead to drug and alcohol abuse during the holidays. Shopping, hosting dinner parties, and reuniting with estranged loved ones are some of the many common holiday triggers.

Other holiday triggers include:

  • Easy access to drugs and alcohol at holiday gatherings
  • Large crowds at malls and other shopping venues
  • Feeling pressured to find the perfect gifts
  • Family traditions that involve alcohol use
  • Coping with annoying or difficult relatives
  • Traveling long distances to visit friends and family
  • Remembering happy past holidays
  • Celebrating holidays for the first time after a loved one’s passing
  • Financial strain

If you are in recovery from addiction, you may have received behavioral therapy and counseling that taught you how to manage and/or avoid many of these triggers. If you think you may have a drinking or drug abuse problem, please know that many drug rehab centers offer relapse prevention training that can help you stay sober — including during the holidays when drinking and drug use can be tempting.

Tips for Staying Safe and Avoiding Holiday Substance Abuse

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the holidays is critical to reducing your risk for substance abuse and addiction during this time. Exercise regularly, get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, and don’t be afraid to say no when people ask you to commit to certain holiday plans that increase your stress level.

Here are other tips for avoiding substance abuse during the holidays, including tips for those in recovery from addiction:

  • Use healthy ways to manage stress that doesn’t involve drugs and alcohol, such as going for a walk, listening to relaxing music, and taking a warm bath.
  • Use a ride-sharing service such as Uber or Lyft if you plan on drinking at a party, or make plans to ride home with a sober driver.
  • Avoid using alcohol if you are also using prescription medications that can increase intoxication or the risk of an overdose, such as opioids or benzodiazepines.
  • Fill your schedule with fulfilling activities that surround you with positive individuals, such as volunteer work or team sports.
  • Start new holiday traditions that involve sober activities.
  • Stay in contact with supportive and understanding friends and family devoted to helping you stay sober and who can steer you away from drugs and alcohol.
  • Come up with excuses you can use in the event someone invites you to a gathering where drugs and alcohol are present, such as you have to wake up early the next morning or you have an intense workout planned.
  • Make a list of nearby Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings you can attend if you feel the urge to relapse.
  • Contact a drug rehab center immediately to receive medical detox and counseling in the event you relapse.