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Drug abuse and accidental use of harmful substances are serious health threats around the holiday season. Holidays provide people with the opportunity to celebrate life and practice gratitude, but this joyous time of year can also be dangerous for those who overindulge in drugs and alcohol, or who are suffering from stress, depression, and addiction.

Here are shocking statistics on drug abuse during the holidays, along with steps you and your loved ones can take to avoid hospital visits and deadly drug overdoses.

Drug Overdose Statistics for the Holidays

  • 5,505 drug overdose deaths occurred in December 2016, which was the highest number of overdose deaths throughout that year.
  • There were 37% more drug overdose deaths in December 2016 than in December 2015, when there were only 4,017 overdose deaths.
  • More than 68% of those who died from unintentional drug overdose deaths in December 2016 were male.
  • Nearly 60% of those who died from suicidal drug overdose deaths in December 2016 were female.
  • Nearly 26% of unintentional drug overdose deaths in December 2016 were among people between the ages of 25 and 34.
  • Nearly 25% of suicidal drug overdose deaths in December 2016 were among older adults between the ages of 55 and 64.
  • Over 51% of drug overdose deaths that occurred in December 2016 took place at the person’s home.

Medication Safety Tips During the Holidays

  • Store your prescription medications out of sight and out of reach of children to prevent unintentional drug overdoses.
  • Use medications only as prescribed by your doctor — do not use higher doses or take medications more frequently than instructed.
  • Do not use medications with alcohol or other drugs that can cause adverse reactions like an overdose. Deadly drug combinations include opioids and benzodiazepines, and alcohol and benzodiazepines.
  • Do not stop or change your dosing regimen without first discussing it with your doctor.
  • Do not use medications prescribed to other people, and do not share your medications with others.
  • Hide habit-forming medications like opioids, benzodiazepines, and stimulants away from others, since these drugs offer a risk for tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
  • Flush unused medications down the toilet, or dispose of your drugs at a drug take-back event that is sponsored by your local pharmacy or law enforcement department.

Tips for Avoiding Substance Abuse on Holidays

  • Politely refuse when offered drugs and alcohol at holiday events, and devise a list of excuses to use if you feel uncomfortable or pressured by others to use these substances.
  • Make alternative holiday plans that don’t involve drugs and alcohol, such as volunteering at a local charity or driving around to see holiday lights with relatives.
  • Spend more time with trusted and supportive loved ones who won’t pressure or encourage you to use drugs and alcohol.
  • Increase your attendance at local AA and NA support group meetings if recovering from addiction.
  • Bring non-alcoholic beverages to parties and events where alcohol is being served.
  • Know how to identify and manage triggers if recovering from addiction to reduce the risk of relapse. If you need help identifying triggers, consider joining an outpatient drug rehab program that teaches you these skills.
  • Manage stress using yoga, meditation, exercise, and other healthy stress-management techniques to avoid the temptation to manage stress using drugs and alcohol.

Addiction Recovery Centers offer a range of therapies and addiction treatment programs to help you stay abstinent from drugs and alcohol during the holidays.