With the end of the year approaching, it is the season of festivities. From work parties to friends and family gatherings, all of these celebrations can lead to increased opportunities to drink alcohol, which can make it easy to overindulge. "People craft such flavorful and fancy drinks, it's very easy to forget you're consuming alcohol," says Karen Miotto, a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive drinking, or binge drinking, is defined as consuming during a single occasion four or more drinks for a woman and five or more drinks for a man. If you are drinking excessively, it may be time to think about your reasons or rationalizations for drinking and consider how to stay within your limits. Miotto offered the following advice on alcohol during holidays:
- "I deserve to unwind." The holidays generate both positive and negative emotions, and drinking is one of the methods that people often use to cope. Overwhelmed from the time-pressured schedules, people may see alcohol as a shortcut to relax. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself or unwinding, listen to your body and keep yourself safe. A hangover the next day is a large price to pay for a night of letting go with alcohol.
- "I need this to get to sleep." Alcohol can help people fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply for a while. But the sedative effects of alcohol can be deceiving because it is associated with decreased quality of sleep and rebound insomnia, a problem that occurs when you discontinue the substance that's been helping you fall asleep, says Miotto.
- "I don't even feel it." With habitual, heavy drinking, people tend to develop tolerance. Even if your speech is not slurred, alcohol may still be affecting your motor coordination.
- "I'm okay to drive." While it is important to consider safety concerns, another unfortunate consequence of heavy drinking is a DUI convictions. A DUI conviction can damage your job prospects and potentially endanger your career, especially if you are a licensed professional, such as a doctor or nurse.
Despite these various consequences, you can make your holidays enjoyable by drinking moderately and encouraging your loved ones to do the same.