Navigating the Surge in Substance Abuse During the Holiday Season

Navigating the Surge in Substance Abuse During the Holiday Season

By Jennifer McDougall

The holiday season, often perceived as a time of joy and celebration, conceals a less-discussed reality: the significant rise in substance abuse. At Passages Malibu, we are acutely aware of this trend and its impact on individuals and families. Let’s delve into the statistics behind this increase and explore how our unique approach to addiction treatment can offer support during these challenging times.

The Stark Reality: Substance Abuse Statistics During the Holidays

Recent studies have shown a worrying uptick in substance abuse during the holiday season. Social pressures, family stress, and emotional triggers contribute to this rise. For instance, alcohol consumption sees a notable increase, with some reports indicating that more individuals are likely to indulge in excessive drinking during holiday festivities. Similarly, the use of prescription drugs and other substances also escalates during this period.

  1. 2020: This year marked the deadliest year to date for overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC. Over 100,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the 12 months ending in April 2021, representing an almost 30% increase from the prior year. Nearly every state in the U.S. reported an outbreak or steady increase in opioid- and other drug-related deaths during this period. Source: Daily Dose – Atrium Health
  2. 2021: The 2021 holiday season was anticipated to be record-setting for drug overdoses as people continued to reel from the pandemic. The United States had a record number of overdose deaths from May 2020 to April 2021, with an estimated 100,000 people dying from drug overdoses during that time. An increase in the supply of drugs like fentanyl, as well as pandemic-related stresses and isolation, likely fueled this increase. The CDC stated that December is the “most dangerous time of the year for drug and alcohol-related deaths.” Source: DMS Services 2023
  3. 2022: For the year 2022, the SAMHSA released data stating that among people aged 12 or older, 59.8% used tobacco products, vaped nicotine, used alcohol, or used illicit drugs in the past month. In the same year, 70.3 million people aged 12 or older used illicit drugs in the past year, and 48.7 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder (SUD) in the past year. Source: SAMHSA

Understanding the Holiday Triggers

The holidays can amplify feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression, leading many to turn to substances as a coping mechanism. The social expectations to appear joyful and the stress of family gatherings can further exacerbate these emotional challenges. Additionally, the prevalence of alcohol at parties and gatherings makes it a readily accessible escape for many.

  1. Plan Ahead: Anticipate potential triggers and have a plan in place. Consider your response and coping strategies in advance if certain events or situations are likely to be challenging.
  2. Set Boundaries: Be clear about your limits. Don’t hesitate to say no to events, activities, or gatherings that might pose a risk to your sobriety or mental health.
  3. Create New Traditions: If old holiday traditions are closely associated with substance use, consider creating new ones that support your recovery and well-being.
  4. Seek Support: Stay connected with your support network. This could be friends, family, a therapist, or a non-12-step support group that understands your journey and can offer encouragement.
  5. Practice Self-Care: Prioritize activities promoting physical and mental health, such as exercise, meditation, or engaging in hobbies that bring joy and relaxation.
  6. Avoid Risky Situations: Be mindful of environments that may increase the temptation to use substances. This might mean avoiding certain parties, bars, or even certain people.
  7. Have an Exit Strategy: If you find yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable or triggered, have a plan for how to leave quickly and safely.
  8. Focus on the Positive: Remind yourself of the reasons you chose sobriety and the positive changes it has brought to your life. Celebrate your progress and resilience.
  9. Manage Stress: The holidays can be stressful, so find healthy ways to manage stress. This could include deep breathing exercises, yoga, or talking to a counselor.
  10. Volunteer: Giving back to the community can be a fulfilling way to spend time and distract from triggers. It can also provide a sense of purpose and connection.
  11. Be Mindful of Alcohol-Free Beverage Options: Ensure alcohol-free beverages are available if attending a gathering. Bringing your own can be a good strategy.
  12. Reflect and Journal: Take time to reflect on your feelings and experiences. Journaling can be a helpful tool for processing emotions and maintaining perspective.
  13. Educate Loved Ones: If comfortable, educate your friends and family about your triggers and what support you need from them during the holidays.
  14. Practice Gratitude: Focus on the aspects of your life you are thankful for. Gratitude can shift your mindset and help you cope with challenging situations.
  15. Remember, It’s Okay to Ask for Help: If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to ask for professional help. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.

Passages Malibu’s Approach to Holiday-Related Substance Abuse

At Passages Malibu, we recognize the unique challenges the holiday season poses. Our non-12-step, holistic approach to addiction treatment is tailored to address the specific needs of individuals during this time. We offer a range of therapies, including individual therapy, interactive group therapy, and alternative holistic modalities, to help our clients navigate the emotional landscape of the holidays.

Preventive Measures and Coping Strategies

Prevention is vital in addressing the surge in substance abuse during the holidays. At Passages, we emphasize the importance of self-care, setting healthy boundaries, and seeking professional support when needed. Our team of addiction experts guides proper coping strategies that can help individuals maintain their sobriety and well-being during this season.

Seeking Help: A Step Towards a Healthier New Year

The decision to seek help for substance abuse, especially during the holidays, is a courageous and life-changing step. Passages Malibu is committed to providing a supportive and healing environment where individuals can embark on their recovery journey. Our personalized treatment plans ensure that each client receives the care and attention they need to start the New Year positively.

The holiday season’s increase in substance abuse is a critical issue that requires attention and care. At Passages Malibu, we are dedicated to helping individuals overcome their struggles with substance abuse through our innovative and compassionate approach to treatment. If you or a loved one is facing challenges with substance abuse during the holidays, we are here to help. Contact us to learn more about our programs and how we can support you on your path to recovery.

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