CADCA Publisher December 29, 2016

The Dangers of Drinking During the Holidays

Every year, tradition calls for champagne corks to be popped and wine to be passed as family and friends gather to celebrate the holidays and new year. While the celebratory toasts invoke socialization and the spirit of the season, too much consumption can lead to dangerous consequences to yourself and those around you.

Holidays are a great time to let loose, but that doesn’t mean lose track of what and how much you are drinking. Alcohol poisoning leads to six deaths per day in the United States, caused by drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time. Signs of alcohol poisoning include: the inability to wake up, slow breathing, vomiting, irregular breathing, seizures and/or hypothermia. If any of these signs are presented, immediately go to the emergency room.

It’s important to note that cognitive and reactive abilities are still impaired, even when physical signs of intoxication begin to subside. Despite not having alcohol recently or drinking a cup of coffee, your driving abilities are still impaired. Further, alcohol is a depressant, causing people to become sleepy and even pass out. The feeling is magnified when driving late at night and can cause drivers to nod off while behind the wheel.

Keep in mind: the legal limit is 0.08 percent blood alcohol content – but any alcohol in your system has the potential to impair your judgment, no matter how small.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 40 percent of traffic fatalities during the holidays involve a driver who is impaired by alcohol, compared to the 28 percent for the rest of December. There is a 155 percent increase in violations for driving under the influence (DUI) offenders on New Year’s Eve.

Long-term effects can stick around long after the hangover disappears. Overindulging in alcohol can wreak havoc on your immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses. Alcohol can decrease your inhibitions, making you more accident-prone. Consuming alcohol slows down reaction time, inhibits your sense of balance and coordination, and impairs hearing and vision.

To enjoy a safe holiday celebration, consider these tips:

  • Abstain.  You do not need alcohol to be the life of the party.
  • Pace yourself. Avoid binge-drinking. Spread out the consumption of your drinks, consider one drink an hour.
  • Avoid drinks with unknown alcohol content or mixing alcohol with energy drinks. Caffeine in energy drinks or sodas can mask the effects of alcohol, causing people to drink more alcohol that than intended/are aware.
  • Substitute alcoholic drinks for non-alcoholic drinks. Consider drinking water between each alcoholic beverage to slow your pace and dilute the alcohol in your bloodstream.
  • Don’t forget to eat food. Starch-heavy foods soak up the alcohol and will mitigate the effects of alcohol on your system.
  • Secure a designated driver. Keep in mind that a designated driver stays 100 percent sober — not the person who drank the least.

For more information about holiday consumption, visit these resources:

Your coalition can utilize NIAAA’s and CADCA’s Know More Before You Pour messages on social media.

NIAAA: Alcohol’s Effects on the Body

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Alcohol Poisoning Statistics

Sobering Up, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc.: DUI statistics

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