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The holiday season is usually a time of celebration, family and love. During this part of the year, many people see their extended family and kids are home from college. Enterhealth, a premier drug and alcohol treatment center based in Dallas, understands that this can be one of the most trying times of year, and the company wants to offer some useful information to help family members and friends spot signs of alcohol abuse. Cara McLeod is a therapist at Enterhealth who offers a wealth of knowledge about what to look for and how to help a loved one who may have developed an addiction. Challenges due to work deadlines, family dysfunction and financial obligations can make stress levels go through the roof, and extra holiday stress can drive people to self-medicate with alcohol. Based upon the latest research, Enterhealth recommends that men drink no more than four drinks per day, with a maximum of 15 drinks per week. For women, the recommendation is no more than three drinks per day or a maximum of eight drinks per week.

One standard drink is equal to:

  • 12 oz. standard beer
  • 5 oz. standard wine 
  • 8-9 oz. malt liquor or craft beer
  • 1.5 oz. of hard liquor (rum, vodka, whiskey, etc.)

The holidays are also a good time of year to observe and evaluate family members, especially if you have concerns they may have a problem with substance abuse. Some signs to watch for include: general isolation, dishonesty, odd changes in behavior, changes in peer groups, difficulty staying awake or sleeping, drinking more than intended, inability to attend work or school, missing functions, losing control of substance use and ignoring help or advice.

“While none of these signs on their own are definite signals that someone may need help, it’s when they start to stack up that you should be concerned,” said McLeod. “If you are worried that a family member is abusing drugs or alcohol, the best thing to do is first initiate a conversation and see if you can help them seek professional help. Many people tend to numb negative feelings with substance use during the holidays because it makes them comfortable. A lot of times people will want to hold off confronting a loved one until after the holidays, so they don’t impose on anyone during the celebrations, but we advise against waiting. This information relates to college-aged students, too. If you notice they are drunk at inappropriate times, lost their job or even failed a class you’ll want to talk to them before it gets worse. If you help them recognize the problem early and take steps to seek treatment, you may be able to prevent severe or even life-threatening consequences of addiction.”

Enterhealth typically sees a rise in the number of people seeking assistance during the holidays, and McLeod says getting treatment around the holidays can be beneficial. For most people, the holiday season is a time when work is winding down, schools are on break and when people use their vacation days. Plus, seeking treatment to attain sustained sobriety is a great way to finish the year.

“A lot of times people don’t want others to find out about their addiction, so treatment during the holidays is a good time to get clean,” McLeod said. “We see a spike in patients right after the new year, and many patients coming back for help with coping skills. Addiction is not the result of a moral failure or weakness and with proper treatment the chance for a successful recovery is high. During the holidays all programming is still available, family events are held and carolers come to our residential facility. We want our patients to receive the best treatment as well as still see their families, which helps them on the road to recovery.”

For almost a decade, Enterhealth has provided a science-based alternative to traditional 12-step programs at its world-class residential and outpatient facilities. Enterhealth’s approach combines the latest advancements in medicine with evidence-based therapies to dramatically increase chances of long-term recovery. The Enterhealth team believes it has a responsibility to offer its knowledge and perspectives to educate the public about addiction as a brain disease. 

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