Holidays and Alcohol Abuse

Warnings of holiday alcohol abuse Staff

Written by Staff Published on 01.01.2015 01:30:00 (updated on 01.01.2015) Reading time: 4 minutes

Written by Elisabeth Escobar, M.Ed

For IWAP’s The Bridge Magazine 

With the holidays upon us, it is not unusual to see friends and family consuming more alcohol than during other times of the year. Unhealthy behavior often results. Accident rates increase during this time of year, in large part due to drunk driving. Unfortunately, the prevalence of alcohol during the holidays takes its toll on our physical and emotional health, as well as on our families, as drinking too much often affects others outside of ourselves.

Chuck Marsico, a chemical dependency counselor at MPI Treatment Services in Oakland, CA, states, “Many individuals simply drink too much! These individuals are at higher risk for developing alcoholism, which is a chronic, progressive and possibly fatal disease.”

People often have an inaccurate view of drink portions. A drink is measured by the following: 1 5-ounce glass of wine, 1 12-ounce beer, or 1 ounce of 80%-proof hard liquor. “An adult can consume two drinks a night and not be considered an alcohol abuser,” Marsico says. “The problem arises when individuals consume the allotted two drinks a night, but each drink consists of much larger quantities than what is considered ‘normal drinking.´”

Alcohol has been used for centuries for events such as holidays, celebrations or just to relax. The rates of actually developing alcoholism, however, have increased over time in large part because of the availability of the substance. Most individuals do not know, or do not believe, that alcoholism is a disease similar to diabetes or cancer.

Signs and symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Drinking more to achieve the same effect (also known as tolerance)
  • Physical effects if alcohol is not consumed, such as headaches, dehydration, shaking or sweating
  • Emotional effects if alcohol is not consumed, such as depression, irritability and obsessive thinking about drinking
  • Blackouts or passing out
  • Personality changes when drinking
  • Vomiting from drinking
  • Inability or unwillingness to stop drinking, even if loved ones, courts or employers ask you to

  • Using despite personal, social or physical consequences
  • Drinking large amounts and not acting or looking intoxicated
  • Using more than intended

Often people go for several months without drinking or they only occasionally consume a drink. But on a night like New Year´s Eve they will consume so much alcohol that they will exhibit some of the above symptoms. If you are concerned about someone´s alcohol use, it is important to know the frequency the person experiences symptoms of substance abuse. Drinking more than the allotted amount on a daily or even weekly basis is cause for concern. And, “saving up” drinks to drink on the weekend is also reason for concern.

Most individuals do not want to keep drinking after a couple of drinks, according to Marsico. But for many individuals, three drinks or more are the norm. “People are surprised to learn that drinking that much, even if they don´t have serious consequences as a result of their drinking, is, indeed, drinking too much. This abuse of alcohol can lead to alcoholism later in life,” Marsico explains.

Donna Yi, M.D., an addictions psychiatrist for the Professionals in Crisis Program at the world-renowned Menninger Clinic in Houston, TX, observes alcohol abuse or dependence in many of her clients. “Alcohol problems are associated with higher rates of mental illness than the general population…Most often this is associated with depression and anxiety disorders,” Dr. Yi said. “Women in particular are prone to greater sensitivity to alcohol effects, have higher blood alcohol levels than men if drinking the same amount, and suffer more harmful effects sooner.” Dr. Yi also notes that when people drink too much REM sleep is suppressed and total sleep time is decreased. The physical and emotional affects can be devastating, and sadly, individuals may not know it for several years.

Tom Tazalaar, director and founder of Alcohol Exposed, an organization devoted to educating individuals about the effects of alcohol, believes the alcohol industry has contributed to the rates of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Alcoholic beverage manufacturers “don´t put labels on alcoholic beverages that alert consumers to what the affects are if one consumes too much,” he says. “Studies in France where alcohol is consumed with cultural regularity have shown that moderate consumption of alcohol is good for the heart,” he says. “What you will not hear is that France also has the highest level of mortality for liver disease.”

It is important to understand alcohol and its effects and recognize and dispel the myths. One can find a vast array of sites on the Internet for educational and resource information, including: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at, and The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at

Be safe this holiday season. Consider going out to a party and not having a drink. Offer non-alcoholic beverages if you are hosting an event. And educate yourself if you have a loved one who you feel is drinking too much. Getting support is crucial.


Originally printed in IWAP magazine “The Bridge” is proud to work with the International Women’s Association of Prague. To know more about the IWAP organisation, please visit


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