By | December 8, 2016

Criminal statistics tend to come up during the warmer months. However, statistics show that the prevalence of arrests and drug-related overdoses increase during the winter, reports The Chicago Tribune. These arrest rates may reflect increased patrols, greater use of illicit substances or a heightened sense of community awareness. As the holidays draw near, the risk of being caught by authorities increases, yet many continue to avoid the subject of treatment entirely.

Rather than waiting until the holidays end to begin treatment, they can serve as a kickoff point for sobriety. Meanwhile, the time of the year also poses some significant benefits to addicts, and you need to understand why.


Why Do People Rationalize Waiting Until After the Holidays for Drug Treatment?

The holidays coincide with some of the greatest reasons people choose to wait to enter drug rehabilitation, which include the following:

  • A person may have a desire to spend time with family members.
  • Cold weather may impact the ability to get to the treatment facility.
  • Bed availability may be minimal.
  • More people may want to save money for holiday shopping.
  • Taking time away from work during the holidays can be complicated.

Each of these reasons seems perfectly reasonable, but think about how a person suffering from addiction will be affected by them.

For example, the desire to spend time with loved ones will be cut off by a greater desire to abuse substances, driving during cold weather under the influence of drugs or alcohol can dramatically increase the risk of having an accident, bed availability may change, money will be spent on drugs, and time off work is likely due to being sick from drug abuse. Ultimately, all of these negative reasons for avoiding treatment are likely to occur even if treatment is not obtained.

Poor decisions can become self-propagating at any time, but the added influence of drugs almost ensures this possibility.

For example, a poor decision to engage in intravenous drug abuse with peers could lead to infection and the spread of blood-borne illnesses. Given the current risk of developing the flu or other illness during winter, these actions may contribute to the onset of a severe infection.

Alternatively, drug abuse may lead to overdose, especially among “street” opioids, or even death. In fact, the number of drug overdose deaths due to opioids hit record levels in 2014, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Regardless of personal beliefs, the risk of death from overdose makes any other justification for avoiding drug treatment irrelevant.

Quite simply, the proximity of the holiday season is not a viable reason to avoid drug treatment. It may be the best reason of all to begin treatment.


How Does Drug Treatment During the Holidays Help Addicts?

Take a moment to think about what entering drug treatment really means. Those with a severe drug dependence may require inpatient hospitalization, and concurrent treatment for any mental health problems must be included. Additionally, the initial battle of detoxification is the most critical time in achieving recovery and sobriety; it is also the time of greatest relapse risk. As a result, it is essential that people understand the reasons why inpatient drug treatment during the holidays is the best solution.

1. Holiday Treatment Reduces Temptation.

Holiday parties almost always include dinners, delicacies and alcohol, but to someone suffering from addiction, a holiday party may include drugs on the table, in the bedroom and by the fire. Each person engaging in drug abuse increases temptations. However, drug treatment effectively reduces temptations by creating a safe environment away from anything that may reduce inhibitions, including drugs, alcohol or even sexual desires.

2. It Helps Keep People Out of Legal Trouble.

The rise in arrest rates around the holidays means people engaging in drug abuse are more likely to be caught. They may be subject to fines, incarceration and mandated drug treatment. However, a person cannot be caught driving under the influence of drugs during inpatient treatment. This goes back to the creation of a safe, drug-free environment.

3. Treatment Rebuilds Support Systems and Strengthens Personal Relationships.

Treatment rebuilds lost relationships and support systems, including communications between family members. Since the majority of people with substance abuse have co-occurring mental health problems, the risk of familial problems is heightened. Moreover, most people who suffer from severe mental health problems, such as mood disorders, also abuse substances, reports the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

This combination may have impacted a person’s support systems and relationships. However, rehabilitation can help rebuild these lost, affected relationships through counseling and learning how to work together to defeat drug abuse. In fact, two of four behavioral therapies recognized by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to overcome addiction have a support-system component.

For example, multidimensional family therapy is designed to help teens and family members learn how influences impact drug abuse, and motivational incentives may be used to encourage abstinence from drugs.

4. It Can Be Cost-Effective.

Paying for addiction treatment remains another concern for those affected by substance abuse. However, the holiday season shares something with health insurers: They both tend to occur toward the end of the plan’s benefit period. In other words, a person in need of treatment may have already met some or all of his or her deductible. As a result, the cost of treatment may be minimal. In addition, waiting until after the benefit period resets could increase out-of-pocket expenses.

This means copays or bills for treatment during the holidays may be much smaller than they would have been earlier in the year. In a way, this single benefit serves the dual purpose of saving money for holiday spending and getting help for addiction.

5. The End of the Year Is Perfect for Resetting Drug-Free Goals.

Think about your last year’s New Year’s resolutions. While you may not have met some of them, the failure of your resolutions was not likely to increase your risk of death. For people suffering from addiction, the end of the year’s common association with new beginnings ties perfectly into the need to complete drug treatment and attain sobriety. Few New Year’s resolutions can compare to the possible benefits of becoming drug-free.


Final Thoughts

Combining all of the benefits of drug treatment during the holiday season culminates in a greater chance of success in rehabilitation. Rather than trying to help those you serve “wait out” the holidays before entering treatment, provide encouragement. Showcase the positive side of treatment when so many of their family members and friends are preparing to embrace the joyous season together.

Even drug treatment facilities offer visitation and ways to see family members during the holidays. In fact, convincing a person to enter addiction treatment could be the key to ensuring that he or she actually gets to see loved ones in a safe, healthy setting during the holiday season.

Jason Vanover

Working in health care since 2005, Jason's body of experience encompasses dozens of care settings, including Senior care, psychiatric facilities, nonprofit health service centers, group homes for those with developmental disabilities and beyond. Jason understands the need to tailor his skills to each setting to encourage the best treatment outcomes and promote an inclusive, healing environment.

Posts By Topic

Show More
Show Less


to find out more about our training and resources