The holidays can be difficult times for those dealing with drug or alcohol use disorders. The Department of Health is encouraging all Louisiana residents, including those hosting parties, to take a few helpful steps to help prevent substance abuse this holiday season as part of its Healthy for the Holidays campaign. Finding a balance with alternative activities and maintaining the supports for those with substance use challenges are important ways to avoid a relapse.
“As we gather with our family and friends, it is essential to remember that we play an important role in creating a safe and healthy environment, particularly when we have parties or plan to celebrate in venues that serve alcohol,” said LDH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. “We can all make small changes or additions to how we celebrate that support those loved ones in our lives that may be struggling with a drug or alcohol use disorder.”
Some key strategies for lowering your risk for substance abuse during holiday celebrations include:
- Learning to say no. Remember that you don’t have to have a drink when offered one and that you don’t have to provide an explanation. It’s your right to politely refuse.
- Making sure you have an alternative, whether it is a healthy activity like volunteering with a local organization or going to see holiday lights with family.
- Maintaining the support network that was part of your recovery and reaching out to those family members, sponsors or trusted friends when you need extra support.
- Attending regular meetings that are part of your schedule for recovery or even increasing the number of meetings you attend.
- Finding a way to balance the kinds of activities you do during the holidays and taking care of your mind and body so that you have the healthy foundation to say “no” when drugs or alcohol are offered.
“Managing substance use isn’t just for those in recovery,” said LDH Interim Assistant Secretary for the Office of Behavioral Health Dr. Rochelle Head-Dunham. “We are all responsible for ensuring a safe environment for those we invite to join our celebrations, including making sure you have alternative alcohol-free drinks and ensuring that anyone who has had alcohol does not get behind the wheel.”
Party hosts can take simple steps to make their celebrations safe for everyone, including:
- Making the focus of the party entertainment, games, conversation and family, not alcohol.
- Having non-alcoholic beverage options.
- Providing healthy, delicious foods to slow the effects of alcohol and avoiding salty foods that encourage people to drink more.
- Requiring those serving drinks to check the ID of anyone who appears to be under the age of 30 to ensure minors are not drinking.
- Not serving drinks towards the end of the party.
- Enlisting friends and family to be designated drivers or to get party guests to hand over their keys before they start drinking and commit to taking a cab home.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a helpful guide for party planners to create safe environments available online here. There are also some drug abuse and prevention strategies available online here.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.