By Deborah Rasso
December is usually a month to remember, but not if you drink too much. Alcohol use increases dramatically during the holidays. An increase like this can lead to heartache and problems. Parties abound, and it becomes more acceptable to drink. However, most people don’t realize that alcohol and drug use cause a higher rate of casualties during the holidays. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies have shown that during the holidays, two to three times more people die in alcohol-related crashes.
It doesn’t take many drinks to be too many drinks. Most people are not aware of the effect of alcohol on decision-making ability, reaction time and general behavior. Depth perception is greatly affected by alcohol. How many drinks can you have before safely driving? Ideally, none. Alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after your last drink. In fact, your judgment is impaired for several hours after you put down the last glass. Even the hangover the next day can impair your ability to drive to some degree.
If a person must drive after a party, remember that you should have no more than one standard size drink per hour. This would equal either one 5 oz. glass of wine, one 12 oz. beer or 1.5 oz. of hard liquor (either straight or mixed in a drink). You might try drinking a non-alcoholic beverage in between alcoholic drinks. If you have had more than one standard size drink per hour, don’t get behind the wheel. Your chances of being in an alcohol-related accident increase dramatically with every two drinks you consume. A common misconception is that if you have coffee, you will be able to drive. Not true: Coffee does not lower the blood alcohol level. Coffee does not “sober you up.” Call a taxi, call a friend, or just stay where you are. Better safe than sorry.
Drinking and driving carries other costs as well. If you get a DUI arrest, you can lose either your freedom or a great deal of money hiring an attorney. Many have paid well over $10,000 to stay out of jail after a DUI.
It is always advised that you have a designated driver. This person should have no alcoholic drinks so they will not put anyone at risk when they transport you home. It is important to have your “wits about you” when driving during the holidays because even if you don’t drink and drive, you don’t know about the car coming from the other direction. Quick reflexes may save your life.
If you know someone who drinks and drives frequently, they may need help in finding motivation to stop the abuse of alcohol. You can find support from local Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Al-Anon meetings (for the family) or a local therapist specializing in addictions.
Deborah Rasso is a certified addiction professional/therapist specializing in substance dependence. She has a private practice in Wellington. She can be reached at (561) 308-4774.
Above: Deborah Rasso