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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

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Tis the season to be mindful of your drinking

Photo of bottles and glasses of drinks on a table

The holidays are here! And since drinking alcohol is a part of holiday festivities for many people, it is a good time to be mindful of how it can affect our celebrations and our health.

During the holidays some people may be more likely to binge drink. Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent—which is the legal limit for driving in the United States—or higher. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men in about 2 hours. Some people may engage in high-intensity drinking, which is consuming 2 or more times these amounts.

Binge drinking is dangerous, and it has many serious safety risks. It can lead to unintentional injuries from car crashes, falls, and alcohol overdoses, which can result in death. Binge drinking increases the chances of committing or experiencing crimes, including assaults and theft. People who binge drink are more likely to engage in unsafe sexual practices, putting themselves and others at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and unintentional pregnancies. Persistent binge drinking may also lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD) and increase the risk of cancers, liver damage, and other disorders.

Another common consequence of holiday drinking is hangovers. Hangovers are characterized by headaches, fatigue, weakness, thirst, muscle aches, nausea, stomach pain, vertigo, and sensitivity to light and sound. During a hangover, attention, decision-making, and muscle coordination can all be impaired. Also, the ability to perform important tasks, such as driving and operating machinery can still be negatively affected. There is no magic remedy for a hangover—only time can cure it. The only real prevention for hangovers is to drink moderately or not at all.

It’s important to note that drinking even small amounts of alcohol during the holidays or any other time of year can pose risks to your health. It can make managing chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes more difficult. In addition, some medications interact badly with alcohol, making them not work properly or making them dangerous or even deadly. These medications include aspirin, acetaminophen, cold and allergy medicines, cough syrup, sleeping pills, narcotic pain medications, anxiety or depression medicines as well as some herbal remedies. Since these medications can take time to clear the body, problems can occur even if they are taken several hours before or after consuming alcohol. 

Meanwhile, individuals who don’t typically drink much alcohol or who are not familiar with the alcohol content of certain alcoholic beverages may indulge more during this time of year. As a result, they may underestimate their level of alcohol consumption and not recognize their level of impairment, leading to potentially hazardous situations.

During the holiday season, be mindful of how much alcohol constitutes a standard alcoholic drink and how much you are consuming. If you are hosting a holiday party, be sure to have plenty of nonalcoholic drinks available for your guests. Other fluids can help them stay hydrated and also may slow the absorption of alcohol in the body, thereby reducing the peak alcohol concentration in their blood. Importantly, please take the necessary steps to help ensure your well-being and the safety of your loved ones. 

For more information, visit one of these NIAAA resources:

To learn about holiday drinking and for tips if you are hosting a party with alcohol, visit NIAAA’s fact sheet, The Truth About Holiday Spirits at

To learn more about what constitutes a standard alcoholic drink and about signs of an alcohol overdose, visit NIAAA’s Alcohol Overdose fact sheet:

To examine your drinking habits or a loved one’s, visit Rethinking Drinking at

For information about treatment for alcohol use disorder, visit the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator at

Happy Holidays, GFK

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.

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