Two glasses of white wine and wine bottle on table in front of christmas tree

How to Drink Responsibly and Stay Safe this Holiday Season

Posted on Monday, December 9, 2019 by UVM Health Network - CVMC

Angela Shea, LICSW, AAP, is a behavioral health clinician at CVMC’s Women’s Health practice under the SBIRT program.

For many, the holidays can be a time of over indulgence whether it’s food, spending, gifts or alcohol. Thankfully, it now seems socially acceptable to discuss tips and strategies to avoid overeating, but what about over drinking?

Have you ever poured punch at a holiday party and wondered “How many drinks are in this?” Many people are surprised to learn what counts as a drink. In the United States, a "standard" drink is any drink that contains 14 grams of "pure" alcohol.

Source: Rethink Drinking: Alcohol & Your Health (National Institute of Health, U.S Department of Health & Human Services)

Many mixed drinks are actually made up of two, three, sometimes four “standard” drinks. Check out this calculator on the National Institute of Health’s website where you can plug in your own Holiday drink recipe to see how many standard drinks it contains: 

Here are some tips I like to share with patients during the Holiday party season (and year round):

  • Insert a nonalcoholic drink spacer between alcoholic drinks; this could be water, juice or any   nonalcoholic drink.
  • Pace yourself with someone at the party who you know doesn’t drink a lot.
  • Eat a full meal before attending a party.
  • Know your “no.” Start the evening with a goal in mind, “tonight I will drink 2 drinks.” Rehearse a polite and convincing “no” when offered.

Lower Risk Drinking Limits

Lower risk drinking limits (remember there is still risk with “low risk”) for men include no more than 4 drinks in one day and no more than 14 in one week. For women and adults over 65, no more than 3 drinks in one day and no more than 7 drinks in one week. To keep within the low risk limits you should stay in both the daily and weekly guidelines. So men, if you have a drink everyday keep it at 2 a day and ladies, keep it at 1 a day. Here’s a visual:

Graphic showing drinking limits for men and women

How to Get Help

If you think your drinking is a problem, are interested stopping, or simply cutting down, help is available. And help can come in different forms, from social support, to recovery support groups to professional guidance with your primary care physician or specialized treatment with a counselor. If you are interested in learning more about resources, contact your primary care physician or the National 24/7 Treatment Referral Line: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).  

Happy Holidays! Drink Responsibly and Stay Safe!

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