12 safe holiday drinking tips

December 5, 2012

Thinking of enjoying an extra brew or two to celebrate this holiday season?  According to School of Public Health professor and noted alcohol researcher Dr. Scott Walters, the holidays ring in a number of sobering statistics on imbibing in excess.

More young people die from alcohol poisoning in December than any other month, when holiday celebrations and wrapping up finals all contribute to the goal of partying and getting drunk.

For drunk drivers of any age, statistics also show that the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can mean an increase in traffic violations, crashes and road fatalities by anywhere from 52 to 57 percent.

And a condition called Holiday Heart Syndrome peaks over holiday periods, especially Christmas, when people tend to significantly increase their alcohol intake, resulting in abnormal heart rhythm, the feeling that the heart is racing, sweating and lightheadedness.  Serious results could occur, and this condition seems to most affect men aged 40 to 55.

To protect yourself and others this holiday season, Dr. Walters offers these tips:

  • Stick with clear alcohols. In general, lighter-colored drinks like white wine or vodka tend to cause fewer hangover effects than darker beverages.
  • Avoid mixing different types of alcohol.
  • Keep count of the number of drinks you’ve had, and pace yourself to no more than one drink per hour.
  • Alternate alcoholic with non-alcoholic beverages to space out the effects, and drink plenty of water. It also helps to put extra ice in your drink.
  • Set a drinking limit ahead of time, before you start.
  • Ask a friend to let you know when you’ve had enough, and stay with people you know.
  • Be aware of any potential interactions between alcohol and medications you might be taking.
  • Caffeinated beverages don’t sober up someone who is drunk … although they can dangerously give the impression that a person is more sober and able to drive.
  • Eat a meal before going out – if you have been eating, it takes longer for alcohol to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Stay with friends who might have had too much to drink – don’t assume it’s safe for them to be alone to “sleep it off.”
  • Remember – any amount of alcohol consumption before driving can impact your abilities behind the wheel. Make sure to plan ahead for a sober way home. This could include setting up a designated driver in advance, or keeping the number of a taxi service in your phone contacts list. If someone you know has been drinking, help them find a sober way home as well.
  • Avoid shots and drinking games.

Students are known for using alcohol to get through and celebrate the end of the school semester, so UNT Health Science Center students are practicing “Drink Responsibly Week” from Dec. 3-7. In addition to free massages and a kickball tournament, students can stoke up on caffeine on Thirsty Thursday and polish up their alcohol awareness before the last bash of the semester on Friday night.

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