The holiday season is fast approaching. People are looking forward to time off from work or from school. People will be packing into shopping malls to find the perfect present for that special someone. There will be celebrations and good eating!

Unfortunately, the holiday season is also when stress levels are at their highest. This added stress can lead to more people using drugs and alcohol to relieve their stress. It can also lead to relapses for those who are already clean and sober. Read on to learn the top five reasons why drug and alcohol abuse spikes during the holiday season.

#5 – For most people, the holiday season is a time for presents! Many families save up all year so they can buy their children everything on their wish list for Christmas or Hanukah. However, most drug addicts have little money left to spend on presents for friends and family. Money woes may surface, leading to more stress, which in turn leads to higher rates of drug or alcohol abuse by the addict.

#4 – Most drugs alter the body’s chemistry. This is part of the reason why certain drugs are so addictive. Most drug/alcohol addicts are already depressed due to the damage the drugs have done to their bodies and minds. Added stress during the holidays can add to a compromised mental and physical state, therefore leaving little energy to fight off drug cravings. During the holidays, it’s important to keep stress low. Attend AA or NA meetings, hang out with sober friends, eat well, and exercise to keep that stress manageable!

#3 – Family gatherings can be stressful, even for those who are not addicted to drugs! Many drug addicts have family issues which may have led them to use drugs in the first place. Attending family gatherings can trigger high stress levels, leading to more substance abuse. Family therapy will allow the addict and his/her family to reconcile any old issues that happened prior to the addict getting sober. If these issues haven’t been properly addressed, family gatherings should most likely be avoided in order to avoid relapse.

#2 – Many people feel lonely and isolated during the holidays. The constant reminders that the holidays are supposed to be a “happy time” may leave the addict feeling even more depressed. This depression can lead to the addict craving an escape from reality. If you are currently in recovery, don’t isolate yourself this holiday season. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, meet up with your sober friends, and celebrate your recovery in a healthy way!

#1- Many addicts don’t have much to talk about during the past year. Their life has not advanced and unless things change, the coming year will not be any different. This can push them into a fog of alcohol and drug use. Don’t relapse this year! Keep stress levels low and avoid any triggers.

For those battling with addiction, the holidays can be full of fear, stress, and even relapse. It doesn’t need to be that way, however. Prepare for the stress of the holiday season to avoid a relapse.