Substance Abuse during the Christmas Season: The Triggers and Benefits of Seeking Support

Contributor: written by Pacific Grove Hospital clinical team member Heather Wilk, MA, NCC

skiing-274393_640A not-so-hidden element of the Christmas season is overindulgence. Many people see this time of year as a window of opportunity to spend a lot of money on gifts, eat too much, and attend several parties to commemorate the holidays.

And while these aspects of the holiday season are typically not detrimental to a person’s well-being, considering social interaction with those we care for most is not a bad thing, there are a number of people who also see Christmas as a holiday to partake in some behaviors that can be harmful to one’s health and overall welfare.

Substance abuse, while not a problem that only occurs during the holiday season, is an issue for many people during Christmas that is often excused away as being an integral part of this time of year.

Alcohol Comes Up Often During the Holidays

Most people attend gatherings with friends, parties with coworkers, and get-togethers with family members in the coming weeks leading up to and including Christmas. At many of these events, alcohol is part of the equation.

The presence of wine, beer, or spirits at these functions is, again, not a bad thing. However, if those in attendance drink excessive amounts of alcohol, life-changing and devastating consequences could occur. With lowered inhibitions, many people are at risk of drinking too much and making poor decisions as a result of their alcohol consumption.

Furthermore, because the holidays can be a stressful time of year, what with pressure to make the holidays special and get loved ones gifts they will like, some individuals will consume alcohol as a way to cope with said stress.

Drug Use Becoming More Common

jeans-253153_640Additionally, some individuals interpret the Christmas season as a time to engage in illicit drug use.

Whether this type of behavior is done to cope with the stress that the Christmas season can bring, or done as a means of exacerbating a good time at a holiday party, the use and/or abuse of drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, can evolve into a problem if a person becomes dependent on these substances in order to cope or have a good time at a holiday event.

This type of problem can worsen if there is pressure from others to engage in drug use or if an individual uses the holidays as an excuse to let loose and dabble in this type of harmful behavior.

Those in Recovery Face a Challenge

With temptation to drink or do drugs seemingly woven into Christmas celebrations, there are other individuals who are at an even greater risk for abusing substances. People who are already grappling with addiction or dependence on drugs and/or alcohol often find that this time of year tests their will power.

Encouragement from others to “just have one” or “doing it once won’t hurt” can seem like bludgeoning enticements that can cause an addict to question his or her ability to refrain from succumbing to such pressure.

Conversely, if a person struggling with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol and does not have friends or loved ones to spend Christmas with, the feelings of sadness and loneliness that could ensue could also cause an addict to feel as though he or she is at an impasse in deciding whether or not to give in to cravings to use.

Furthermore, if a person addicted to a substance isolates him or herself during this time of year, the risk for increased use elevates, which can put an individual at risk for overdose.

The Benefit of Support

person-96215_640With so many triggers and the onslaught of temptation to drink or use drugs during Christmas, this joyous time of year can also be clouded with chemical dependency concerns.

Those that find themselves overusing substances during the Christmas season, in addition to those who are battling addiction, can benefit greatly from support if the holidays prove to be a trying time when trying to reduce or abstain from the consumption of drugs or alcohol.

Individuals who are not yet in the throes of an addiction should be mindful of their choices to drink or do drugs and consult with a mental health professional if substance using behaviors become problematic and/or harmful to a person’s wellbeing.

Individuals who are already working on sustaining sobriety could also benefit greatly from receiving support from others so that the tools learned to continue recovery are not lost because of the holidays and the stress involved.

Starting Treatment as Soon as Possible

Lastly, if a person feels that he or she is currently battling a chemical dependency problem but has yet to seek treatment, waiting until after the holidays may not be such a safe idea. There are several options for care, such as acute inpatient services, that can be started during the holiday season.

Mental healthcare that includes specialized treatment for chemical dependency concerns can prevent an addiction from worsening or provide the necessary life-saving treatment that can allow a person to enjoy holidays, such a Christmas, with a new personal goal for achieving and maintaining sobriety.

Among all of the gifts a person can receive, one of the best presents a person can give him or herself is the opportunity to live a happy, sober life free from the vicious cycle of addiction.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What are ways that you maintain your focus on addiction recovery during the holidays? How do you keep your resolve to not overindulging?


About the Author:

“Substance Abuse during the Christmas Season: The Triggers and Benefits of Seeking Support” was written by Pacific Grove Hospital clinical team member Heather Wilk, MA, NCC. Heather has several years of experience working in the treatment field as a clinical therapist and has her Master’s degree in Community Counseling from Concordia University – Chicago.


About Our Facility:

Site Description: Pacific Grove Hospital is a 68-bed private hospital that is revered as a leading provider of acute psychiatric and chemical dependency services.

With programs available for adults who are battling a myriad of emotional, behavioral, and substance abuse concerns, Pacific Grove’s services aim to care for the whole person and not just the symptoms of an existing condition.

The caring staff at this hospital, of which includes a variety of experienced mental health professionals and medical personnel, facilitates treatment with the utmost of compassion and dedication to helping patients so that true healing and recovery is achieved by all who come for care.

Individualized treatment is cornerstone to the programs offered at Pacific Grove and this is done so as to ensure that every need of every patient is met and cared for in the most effective manner possible. This exemplary mental healthcare provider strives to guarantee that each patient’s stay at this hospital is transformative so that a healthier life can be attained.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 22nd, 2014
Published on AddictionHope.com