ADDICTIONS: Safer holiday parties

By on December 17, 2019

Many people believe that the main attraction at a party should be something other than alcohol, because of the dangers and liabilities of “overindulging.” Alcohol has traditionally been a major factor in holiday celebrations, but in recent years lawsuits have been successfully brought against restaurants, bars, employers, even friends of people who have died or been injured after leaving a holiday get-together.

The following information has been taken from facts shared by the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information in the hope that it may encourage safer holiday events.

Facts to Remember

  • More than half of Americans do not drink.
  • Impaired driving can occur with very low blood alcohol percentages. For most people, even 1 drink can affect driving skills.
  • At least 50 percent of all holiday traffic fatalities involve alcohol (MADD).
  • Holidays are especially dangerous because more people celebrate by over-drinking, making themselves susceptible to alcohol related troubles.
  • Coffee cannot sober up someone who has had too much to drink. Only time can do that. It takes one hour to metabolize one drink.

Suggestions for party planners

  • Encourage conversation and activities such as games that focus on fun rather than on alcohol.
  • Prepare plenty of food so guests will not drink on an empty stomach.
  • Do not serve alcohol to underage guests and do not ask children to serve alcohol.
  • Be clear that other drug use will not be tolerated.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages for those who prefer non alcoholic drinks.
  • If you prepare alcohol based punch, use non carbonated base like fruit juice. Alcohol is absorbed faster into the bloodstream with a carbonated base.
  • Chose a reliable bartender who abstains from drinking at the party and who will keep track of the size and number of drinks that guests consume.
  • Stop serving alcohol an hour before the party ends because only time sobers up a person who has been drinking.
  • If some guests have too much to drink, drive them home or arrange for alternate transportation.

When the Party’s Over

Your responsibility as a host is even more important at this point. Should any of your guests be unable to drive due to alcohol impairment, be sure to provide several options.

  • Be prepared to offer your guests alternate forms of transportation:
  • Know what “safe ride programs are available in your area.
  • Keep the phone numbers of several cab companies handy.
  • Ask someone who was not drinking to drive a guest home.

If the above options are not available, you can offer your place to spend the night. If the person insists on driving despite his or her obvious intoxication, take the keys, ask for help from other guests, or temporarily disable the car. If all else fails, say you will call the police (and do so.)

Sources:  1. For additional information on alcohol-safe and drug-free parties, contact the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 1-800-729-6686.


Jo Ann Hummers, EdD, is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist. She has a private practice at the Nags Head Professional Center. Her work includes DWI assessments and treatment, smoking cessation sessions, and treatment for gambling addiction. This column is repeated from previous holiday seasons.

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