Heavy Drinking at the Holidays Can Be Dangerous

‘Tis the season for drinking. Much like the free reign we give ourselves at the buffet table, too many of us consume too much champagne, eggnog or spiced wine at this time of year.

In a recent Chron article, Dr. Richard Pesikoff, a professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine, noted, “Holidays have a certain aura about them. They give us permission to do a lot of things that at other times of the year we tend not to do. It gives a lot of people permission to drink more than they might at other times.”

There is a sense at this time of year that it is OK to ditch the routine and take part in the holiday spirits. While that may seem like an overwhelming opinion, not all will take part. According to research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 35 percent of Americans don’t drink at all and 37 percent engage in low-risk drinking.

The study, Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health, defines low risk for men as fewer than five drinks on a single day and no more than 14 during a given week. Women are considered low risk if they drink fewer than four drinks in a single day and less than seven a week.

The sale of wine and booze tend to spike from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Extra sales mean that someone is drinking more at the holidays. Overdoing it can be a danger for the occasional drinker as he or she may not be aware of how much they are consuming.

“People are not good judges of how they are being affected,” said John Roache, chief of the division of alcohol and drug addiction at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. “You think it’s OK to drive, but you won’t be aware how not OK it is if you are drinking more than you usually do.”

“It is a festive time of the year,” Pesikoff said. “You want to keep it festive. You don’t want to end up in the E.R. or in the slammer or stuck in the bathroom at a party.”

There is still hope.

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