The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but they can also be an anxious time for those who struggle with substance use in their lives. This is especially true for those who are experiencing a drug or alcohol addiction. In fact, the holidays may be one of the most challenging times for those who are trying to abstain from drugs and alcohol. Here’s why this might be the case: During the holidays, our sense of community increases. Friends and family members come together to celebrate with loved ones, which can make people feel more connected than ever. For those struggling with substance use, this increased sense of community may increase the risk that they will relapse. Researchers aren’t sure exactly why this is, but it may have something to do with stress hormones released during stressful situations like parties or family get-togethers.


It’s no secret that life can be stressful. Many people experience mild to moderate stress as part of their everyday lives. Some people, however, may experience more severe forms of stress, which can negatively affect their lives and cause them to make poor decisions, such as using drugs and alcohol. Those who are experiencing severe forms of stress may be more likely to use drugs and alcohol because doing so may help them cope with the stress they are feeling.

Food and Drinks

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! And to the days when you don’t have to work on Thanksgiving. Holiday parties and gatherings often include food and drink as the centrepiece of the festivities. For someone struggling with substance use, these festive gatherings may also include substances that are used to cope with stress or celebrate the occasion. For example, someone who is dealing with high stress levels may use alcohol to help them relax. Someone experiencing a holiday season marked by food allergies may use gluten or other substances to avoid the allergen.

Family Gathering

During the holidays, many people also gather with family members and friends, creating a sense of community. This sense of community may be a particular challenge for those who are struggling with substance use. For example, someone who is experiencing a high level of stress and has access to drugs or alcohol in the home may be more likely to use these substances during the holiday season. This sense of community may also increase the risk that those who are struggling with substance use will relapse.

The Sense of Newness

For many, the holidays often mark the beginning of a new year. New years are often celebrated with events like parties, alcohol consumption and New Year’s resolutions, which can increase the risk that those who are struggling with substance use will use drugs or alcohol during these celebrations. In fact, research suggests that those who are trying to quit drugs and alcohol are more likely to relapse during the new year, which can be a very stressful time. New Years Eve parties, which often include alcohol consumption and other high-stress situations, are a good example of this.


Drug and alcohol use often spikes during the holiday season, and this can be especially challenging for those who are trying to abstain. The holidays are a time of increased community and increased risk for both those who are trying to abstain and those who are using drugs or alcohol. It’s important to recognize the challenges that may arise during the holiday season, so that you can stay safe. Recognize the signs of stress in yourself and your loved ones. Engage in healthy behaviours, like spending time with friends and family and eating a healthy diet, instead of engaging in high-risk behaviours, like drinking alcohol or using drugs. With these steps, you can enjoy the holidays with your loved ones, maintain sobriety and celebrate the New Year free from substance use.

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