The holidays are a fantastic time of year where friends and families get together, give thanks, share joy, and indulge. When looking ahead to this Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years (some of the busiest travel days of the year), safety is a huge concern. Learning about the low-risk drinking guidelines can help keep you, your friends, and your family safe on some of the busiest days of the year. They can also be applied to every day life to prevent alcohol-related risks.
It's a known fact that people tend to consume more alcohol around the holidays than they do in a normal week. On average, people double their alcohol consumption in the holiday season.
- Driving is the most popular mode of travel around the holidays: on average, 48.7 million Americans travel 50 miles or more from their home on Thanksgiving.
- 40% of all traffic-related deaths during the holidays are caused by drunk drivers. 51% of drunk drivers say they drink more during the holidays than any other time of the year.
- Between Thanksgiving and New Years, 1,200 people on average are killed and 25,000 are injured because of alcohol-related incidents.
Why do people consume more alcohol around the holidays? Approximately 69% of people are more likely to socialize over the holidays. People tend to drink more when they're around other people, similar to how people might eat more when they're with family and friends. This concept is called social facilitation. For some, alcohol may make social situations less daunting, reduce feelings of anxiety, and act as a "social lubricant". These feelings, however, are only temporary.
It is a common belief is our society that the more we drink the better we will feel. This is simply not true. In fact, "when high levels of alcohol are involved, instead of pleasurable effects increasing, it’s possible that a negative emotional response will take over." Alcohol is linked to aggression, and can make people feel depressed and angry. This is not to say that people can't drink and socialize, but should be aware of the influence this environment has on consumption.
What are the low-risk drinking guidelines? The body metabolizes alcohol at a rate of one standard drink per hour. A standard drink is defined as one 12 fluid ounce glass of 4% alcohol by volume (ABV) beer, one 1.5 fluid ounce glass of 80% ABV liquor, or one 5 fluid ounce glass of 12% ABV wine. Not every alcoholic beverage contains just one standard drink. Around the holidays be aware of this fact and take it into consideration. Low-risk drinking for men is defined as up to 2 standard drinks per day, and up to 1 standard drink per day for women. More than this is considered moderate to high-risk drinking.
Staying within the low-risk guidelines doesn't mean people are safe to drive. Even at a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% (a buzzed state), people are 50% more likely to cause an accident. One standard drink places a majority of people at a blood alcohol concentration above this, increasing their risk of alcohol-related incidents. So whether you're hosting a holiday party or attending a family gathering, keep the low-risk drinking guidelines in mind. Keep yourself and your family safe this holiday season. Tips on how to be a good host (from the NIAAA):
- Offer a variety of non-alcoholic beverages such as water, juices, and mocktails. People don't like standing around without a drink, so it's good to have options. Plus, non-alcoholic drinks can help counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol.
- Food in the stomach helps to slow the rate at which alcohol enters the bloodstream. Provide a variety of healthy foods for people to snack on. This can also help minimize stomach irritation and GI distress.
- Be prepared to let people spend the night, choose a designated driver, and have taxis/Ubers at the ready. No amount of alcohol makes it safe for your guests to drive!
We encourage you to share the low-risk guidelines with friends and family, so that they know how to reduce their risk over the holidays and beyond. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! For questions about our Low-Risk Drinking Course for Adults: Minimize Risk, Maximize Life, contact our office at 513-868-2100.