Substance Abuse at Christmas


It should be the most wonderful time of the year, giving family and friends the opportunity to get together and celebrate the holidays. For people who live with addiction, Christmas can instead be a difficult time of the year. Many individuals will spend the festive period trying to hide their behaviour from loved ones to avoid “ruining” Christmas Day.

With their being so many opportunities to drink throughout the holiday period, anyone struggling with alcohol and drug addiction is forced to face their demons on a daily basis. Recreational drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine have now been normalised as “fun” party drugs. As a result of this, people have modified their behaviours in favour of more problematic habits 1.

This is also particularly true for employees in a workplace setting. Usually throughout the year, the average person will consume an average of 9.7 litres of pure alcohol a year, which equates to about 18 units a week 2.

It was predicted back in 2018, however that the average Briton would consume 26 units a per day throughout the festive period, with an average of 156 units consumed over the course of six days which is nearly 10 times more than the average 16 units usually consumed on a night out 3. This will inevitably be put workplace safety at risk over the festive period.


Managing Alcohol Consumption During the Festive Period

Drinking too much alcohol can have negative long-term effects on an individual’s health. If you drink, consider setting limits for yourself over the holiday period and keep an eye on how many units of alcohol you are consuming. It is also very important to avoid binge drinking.

NHS alcohol guidelines in the UK state that both men and women should drink less than 14 units a week in order to avoid health risks often associated with a high rate of consumption of alcohol. If you do drink up to 14 units a week, it is recommended that this is spread over 3 days or more 4.


Tips and Advice

Eat before or while drinking and avoid salty snacks, which can make you thirsty.

Be aware of your limits and stick to them.

Try alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks.

Drink slowly and try to take sips rather than gulps.

Don’t mix alcohol with any other drugs, including prescription medication.


Alcohol also has the potential to affect your mental health. If you have a hangover following on from a night of heavy drinking, you can feel anxious and down a result 5.


Resisting Drug Temptation at Christmas

If you are struggling with drug addiction throughout the holiday period it is important to be aware of where your triggers will be most prevalent. If attending a club or a party, for example, it will likely involve lots of triggers and would therefore be advisable to skip these kinds of events or limit your time at them as to avoid encountering illicit substances 6.


Drug Triggers at Christmas and How to Handle Them


False Sense of Security – it is very easy to forget yourself during the festive period, especially if other people around you are using illicit substances themselves. Avoiding or limiting you contact with people who use drugs or events where use of drugs is likely.


Loneliness – Avoid isolating yourself over the holiday period as loneliness can often make substances like alcohol and drugs more tempting. Try and reach out to your family and community during the Christmas period as staying connected to people is one of best ways to avoid substance abuse.


Resentment and Discomfort – Throughout the festive period you may come into contact with family that you do not get along with or find yourself in situations that that may make you feel uncomfortable, this can easily result in someone falling back into substance abuse to cope with the discomfort. Try to avoid or these encounters as much as possible


Pressure – Some people can find themselves are under a lot of pressure during the festive season, reasons for this can range from trying to buy the “perfect” gifts or hosting Christmas dinner. Those who suffer from drug addiction will often abuse drugs to cope with these stressful situations. If you suffer from drug addiction, try to reduce your stress as much as possible to avoid this situation. This could be done through setting a gift budget for each person or start a tradition like Secret Santa 7.


Avoiding Alcohol at the Work Christmas Party

Many employees feel pressure to consume alcohol at the Christmas work party. According to research carried out by the education charity Drinkaware, 1 in 4 (26%) of us have regretted something we did at the work Christmas party after consuming too much 6.  Drinking is considered to be a major part of work culture during the festive period. When people pressure their colleagues to drink, they don’t necessarily mean to.

Andrew Misell, Alcohol Change UK director for Wales, states that choosing not to drink alcohol is a decision that should be respected “It’s not boring or unsociable. And no one should be made to feel uncomfortable for making that choice, as it can make that decision much harder.”


In order to stay in control alcohol consumption at the work Christmas party, suggestions include:


Go completely alcohol-free for the evening.

Track how much you are drinking.

Alternate your alcoholic drinks with soft drinks.

Eat before or during your work party drinks.

Avoid joining in buying rounds of drinks.

Plan in advance how you will get home.


Risks of Heavy Drinking

While obvious risks of heavy drinking at the work Christmas party can include embarrassment, shame and professional setbacks, there are also several health implications in regards to consuming too much alcohol. Drinking more than the UK Chief Medical Officer’ guidelines of up to 14 units of alcohol spread over a period of a week can greatly increase your chances of developing several different diseased including seven forms of cancer 9.


How Can We Help You?

At Randox Testing Services, we offer a choice of testing options for both alcohol and common drugs of abuse, whether policing your drug and alcohol policy, monitoring abstinence, or as part of an investigation after an incident. We can help create a safer work environment by promoting drug and alcohol testing to all workforces (especially those where safety critical employees feature).

This can help create a more open and honest environment and a culture that puts safety first. We offer a fully confidential and no obligation initial consultation with one of our highly trained account managers to help determine your needs and create the best possible plan for you and your company.


About Us

Randox Testing Services are a specialist drug and alcohol testing company working in both the workplace and medico-legal sectors. We operate across the UK and Ireland, with a global network of trained collection officers. We have a wide variety of drugs we test for to meet your needs.

If you’re interested in getting assistance or learn more about implementing an effective testing policy, contact us:


Phone: +44 (0) 28 9445 1011




Acquiesce (2022) Resisting Drug Temptation at Christmas (6). Available at:

Alcohol Change UK (2018) Drinking trends in the UK (2). Available at:,about%2018%20units%20a%20week

Delamere (2022) Living with addiction at Christmas: how to get help (1). Available at:

Drinkaware (2016) One in four regret drunken behaviour during festive season reveals Drinkaware (8). Available at:

National Health Service (2021) Alcohol units (4). Available at:

NI Direct (2023) Know your alcohol limits during the festive season (5). Available at:

Patient (2023) How to control your drinking at a work Christmas party (7). Available at:

Secure Healthcare Solutions (2019) How much should we drink over Christmas? (3). Available at:

Which Rehab (2023) 12 Christmas Triggers and How to Handle Them (9). Available at:,strong%20and%20maintain%20your%20sobriety.