The Effects of Drinking During the Holiday Season



The holiday season comes with a lot of holiday spirit and not just the kind wrapped up in feel-good traditions and seasonal cheer. The stress and festivities can cause people to indulge in the holiday spirits of wine, beer or liquor more than they typically would. Whether it’s sipping spiked cider by the fire, pouring wine with your holiday feast or toasting the New Year with champagne, alcohol is a part of many of the season’s celebrations.

One of the unfortunate consequences is an increase in alcohol-related accidents and deaths during the holiday season. Here are some things to keep in mind during the cold-weather months to make safe choices that benefit both you and the people you’re sharing the celebrations with.

Your Physical Health

Even someone who is usually a light drinker can experience negative health consequences from a single incident of binge-drinking. The affects can vary from an enjoyable stimulant to a depressant with blackouts and alcohol poisoning. Alcohol may play a role in what some call “holiday heart syndrome,” which is a spike in heart attacks during the holiday season in otherwise healthy people. Researchers believe alcohol may be a cause for some of the increase since it increases blood pressure and irregular heartbeats. Alcohol can also weaken your immune system at a time when germs are already aplenty. Remember to pace yourself, drink water between alcoholic drinks and stop when you’ve reached your limits to avoid dangerous blackouts or accidents. 

Your Emotional Health

The holiday season can be tough on a lot of people emotionally. Alcohol can affect your judgement and lower your inhibitions. You may be visiting people and spending time in places that can create new––or remind you of old––negative feelings. Under the influence of alcohol, you may be joyous but some people may react with negative behavior or aggression. If you have an existing problem with alcohol, it can be a difficult time to stay sober. Take care of yourself during the holidays amid all the running around and stressful events. Avoid situations you know may stir negative emotions and find allies in friends and family that you can turn to if you feel overwhelmed or pressured to drink. And as a host, never pressure anyone to have a drink if they decline. 

Those You Share the Road With

Celebratory drinking paired with bad weather, more cars on the road and parties that can go late into the night become a dangerous formula. Alcohol-impaired drivers are involved in about 40 percent of traffic fatalities during Christmas and New Year’s. Alcohol can affect your reaction time, coordination, and judgment for hours after your last drink. Always make a plan for how you’re getting home when you know you’ll be drinking or have a ride-share app downloaded so you won’t have to figure it out after your brain has been impacted by alcohol. Drinking and driving is not an option.  

If you have questions related to alcohol consumption and your health, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician online or by calling 1-800-INSPIRA.