Thursday, December 23, 2010

Substance Use and Abuse During Holiday Periods

Research has shown that during the December-January holiday period, substance abuse problems can emerge and/or be exacerbated.  Brenda Iliff, Clinical Director of Hazelden in Naples, FL, discusses substance abuse problems and relapse during the holidays in an interview posted on Recovery Resource BLOG.

Holiday substance abuse problems not only affect individuals and families, but also have a major impact on public health and welfare.  Consider for example some statistics on holiday alcohol-related fatalities from Finland and from the United States.  A study by Makela and colleagues reported that in Finland over the 15-year period from 1987-2001, alcohol-related deaths spiked on Christmas Eve and New Years Day in men (58 and 48% increases, respectively) and in women (121 and 77% increases, respectively, see the figure).

Comparable statistics on alcohol-related traffic deaths in the US from 2001-2005 were reported by the US National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), and showed that alcohol-related fatalities were 25 and 50% higher during the 3 to 4-day holiday periods surrounding Christmas and New Years Day, respectively.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in its Of Substance Blog suggested that party hosts plan to offer guests non-alcoholic beverage choices, and even provided several alcohol-free drink recipes to consider.

In addition, a number of anti-alcohol media campaigns targeting holiday drunken driving are underway, including one highlighted by the Addiction Inbox BLOG.

Alcohol seems to be the main holiday-related substance abuse problem.  However, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that in 2009, 10 million people drove while intoxicated with prescription or illicit drugs (compared to 30 million people drove while alcohol-intoxicated).  In fact, in some age groups, the prevalence of drugged-driving exceeds that of drunk driving.

Although statistics do not seem to be available yet clarifying whether drug-intoxication deaths (driving or otherwise) increase during the holidays, this week, President Obama issued a Proclamation naming December 2010 as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, with a focus on preventing drunken and drugged driving.

CPDDBLOG welcomes CPDD member’s thoughts on this issue, thanks you for looking in over the past few months, and wishes you and yours a happy, healthy, prosperous, and especially a safe holiday season and new year.

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