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The holidays are a time to celebrate, often with family and friends. Many social gatherings include alcohol. However, many adults partaking in the festivities may not wish to drink alcohol for a variety of reasons. Some might be re-evaluating their relationships with alcohol and are taking a break. Others may be in recovery from alcohol use disorder. Some adults may have different motives for abstaining from alcohol, such as being or planning to become pregnant, taking certain medications that interact negatively with alcohol, or having a medical condition that can be made worse by alcohol. Others may abstain because they are driving afterwards or have an early morning the next day. Asian Americans and others who have an inactive allele for acetaldehyde dehydrogenase may not drink because of the resulting aversive flush reaction

Here are tips on how to be inclusive of any guests who won’t be drinking. These tips can also help prevent guests who choose to drink from overindulging in alcohol:

  • Have a variety of alcohol-free drinks—such as, water, juices, and sparkling sodas—available for your guests.
  • Put more emphasis on food than drinks.
  • Make sure your guests are aware if a bowl of punch or food items contain alcohol.
  • Avoid games or activities that center around alcohol.
  • Don’t call attention to guests who are not drinking, they don’t need an excuse.
  • Identify and address potential triggers for someone with an alcohol problem. For example, since the sight of beer and liquor bottles could cause alcohol cravings in some people, consider serving alcohol containing drinks in cups and glasses and keep the alcohol containing containers elsewhere.

NIAAA’s fact sheet, The Truth About Holiday Spirits, has more tips on how to help all your guests celebrate safely.

If you are looking forward to incorporating healthy behaviors in your routine in the new year, think about your own relationship with alcohol. Visit NIAAA’s website Rethinking Drinking for tips and for tools to help you examine your drinking patterns. Consider participating in an event such as Dry January—which involves taking a break from alcohol for the month – and see if you observe positive changes in the quality of your sleep, mood, and energy level. If you think you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol and needs help, visit the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator to learn about quality care and treatment options near you.

Wishing you happy and safe holidays,
George F. Koob, Ph.D.
NIAAA Director

Need Help for an Alcohol Problem?

If you’re having an emergency, call 911. If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 911, go to the nearest emergency room or call the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to help you through this difficult time.

The NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator can help you recognize and find high quality treatment for alcohol use disorder. If you drink excessively, seek medical help to plan a safe recovery as sudden abstinence can be life threatening. NIAAA’s Rethinking Drinking can help you assess your drinking habits and provides information to help you cut back or stop drinking.