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Why the holidays contribute to substance abuse

While the holiday season brings some joyful moments, it can also be difficult. If someone struggles with a substance abuse problem, the holidays can exacerbate it. Cities across America are seeing a spike in drug overdoses due to the stress of the holiday season. 

The holidays are not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. Here is some insight into why the holidays can cause an increase in drug or alcohol abuse.

Holiday anxieties

Sometimes, the holiday season and anxiety go hand in hand. Common anxiety-inducers during this time of year include the following:

  • Struggling financially while trying to purchase gifts
  • Dealing with overcrowded stores and traffic
  • Trying to take care of multiple tasks on a to-do list
  • Having a difficult relationship with family members

When people are feeling anxious, they may turn to illicit drugs, opioids or alcohol in an attempt to cope. 

Holiday depression

Depression is a serious concern during the holidays. While some may see it as counterintuitive to be sad during this time of year, it makes sense. Not only do some individuals suffer from seasonal affective disorder, but holidays can trigger feelings of grief, loneliness and self-worthlessness. Here are some examples of how Thanksgiving or Christmas may depress people:

  • Missing a loved one who has passed away
  • Being alone 
  • Missing a former romantic partner
  • Being unable to give gifts because of financial difficulties
  • Experiencing strained family relationships

People may abuse substances to try to relieve themselves of depression. However, this may have a worse effect. Drugs and alcohol often get them stuck in a vicious cycle of becoming more depressed and addicted. 

No matter why people may struggle with addiction during the holidays, they should not be ashamed to seek help. Receiving treatment and legal assistance is often necessary to get their life back on track.

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