Enjoy the Holidays — Stay Safe and Healthy!
Published: November 22, 2018 by Eric Klinger
Let’s face it — while the holidays are often a time of great joy, they can also be pretty stressful! The holiday season often adds even more pressures to our daily lives, from work-related demands to unresolved family issues to the simple alterations in our everyday routines. And all of this can intensify stress levels and increase the chances of substance abuse.
At Unison Health, we aim to prevent substance use disorders by ensuring people are aware of the risks of opioids and the part they can play in keeping their friends and family safe. It’s a year-round job for us, and the holidays are no exception, so here are few tips to help everyone enjoy a happy, safe and healthy holiday season.
Adults: Dispose of Unused Pain Meds Before Guests Arrive
For many people, the end of the year means a significant uptick in the number of people coming in and out of the house. And just like you’d tidy up the living room, Unison Health recommends you clean up in the medicine cabinet as well.
While we’d like to believe everyone we invite in can be trusted, that may not always be the case. For many people, social gatherings are a chance to snoop around looking for prescription pain medications. Why give anyone the opportunity? It’s not a great idea to keep pain meds around the house anyway — the potential for abuse is too high. The holidays, then, are an ideal time to clear your home of any meds you’re no longer taking.
College Students: Know the Risks Before You Party
For college students, holiday breaks are a time to reconnect with old friends. Amid all the parties, though, the dangers of substance abuse are very real. Part of that can be attributed to people not fully understanding that prescription medications carry severe risks. In a recent study, over 60% of college students said they’re aware that opioids can be addictive, but at the same time they believe pain pills are less risky that heroin. The fact is most of today’s heroin addicts got their start abusing prescription medications, which share most of the same chemical composition as their illegal counterparts.
When get-togethers involve drinking, the risks can become even greater. Not only are people’s inhibitions down, making people more likely to take a pill when it’s offered, but alcohol and opioids are also a very dangerous combination, increasing the potential for overdose. Going into a party situation with a full understanding of the hazards can go a long way toward preventing unintended consequences.
Have a Plan for Holiday Stress
Everyone has specific things in their life that trigger stress. For people who have substance abuse issues, those triggers can increase the likelihood of unhealthy behaviors. People in recovery are encouraged to always have a plan for how they will face potentially hazardous situations and still maintain their sobriety. It’s an excellent strategy for people who are struggling with addiction, but there’s also a real lesson in there for anybody trying to get through the holidays with their health and happiness intact.
Going into a stressful situation with a full understanding of the possible triggers — and a plan for coping with them — can go a long way toward keeping you from reaching for that extra drink, anxiety pill or other substance. Tell yourself that, instead of having a drink when my mother-in-law gets judgmental or my drunk uncle starts talking politics, you’ll just leave the room for a little while. Maybe quite a while. Whatever works.
If you feel you need additional help with a substance use disorder, Unison Health offers a wide range of treatment options designed to get you back on the right track. Call 419-214-HOPE to learn more — and take on the holidays and the new year with a healthy outlook.