The holiday season can be a time of celebration and stress. There is a rise of alcohol and drug consumption during the period. This happens for different reasons:
- Sometimes alcohol and/or drugs are used when gathering to celebrate with family and friends.
- People also use substances as a coping mechanism to escape or numb the hardships they experience at this time of the year. For many people, the holidays are a difficult time, because of financial stressors, grief, trauma, or other personal issues.
Harm Reduction is an approach that focuses on reducing and minimizing the impact of consuming drugs and/or alcohol.
- Plan ahead if you or someone close to you decides to consume substances.
- Planning ahead can keep you, your family and friends safe during holiday gatherings.
If you choose to drink or do drugs, here are things to consider before taking these substances:
- Plan ahead: Make sure you have a way to get home safely. Or, stay at a friend’s or family members’ home.
- Have a designated driver when you are drinking or doing drugs. If you’re a parent, pick up your teen if they call for a ride home.
- Do not drive any motorized vehicle (skidoos, cars, four-wheelers, etc.)
- If you’re going to consume drugs, do not use alone. Surround yourself with people you know and trust. Tell someone about what you are going to do. Make sure they know where to call for help in your community if something happens to you.
- Avoid mixing substances. Mixing drugs can be deadly. Mixing alcohol, legal drugs, prescription medicine and/or street drugs can be a lethal cocktail. It can be hard to predict how your body will respond when more than one substance is used.
- Start slow and low. Take a little amount at a time. Wait a while for the effects to kick in before you take more of the substance.
- Alternate your drinks (alcohol and water).
- Eat and drink water before consuming. Don’t consume on an empty stomach.
- Have a place (like a bowl) for your guests to put their vehicle keys.
- Discourage any driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This includes skidoos, four-wheelers, cars, or any motorized vehicles.
- Be ready to have some overnight guests if they can’t find a ride home.
- If you are not drinking - be their designated driver. Or,ask someone who is willing to drive people home for you.
- Know all the emergency phone numbers in your community.
- Have a naloxone kit in your home in case of an overdose.
- Have lots of water and good food available for your guests.
Remember, you can make a difference. You can save a life.
- Blackouts (not being able to remember what happened when you were drinking or using drugs).
- Risky behaviour (including unprotected sex, assault, violence, driving under the influence).
- Weather. The winter season is very cold in the Eeyou Istchee. It’s a lot easier to get lost, or lose track of time when under the influence of alcohol and drugs. This can significantly increase the risk of hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature) if you stay outside too long without appropriate clothing or protection for cold weather.
If you’re having a hard time during the holiday season, please know you are not alone.
- Reach out to family, friends, youth outreach workers, community workers or your local resources if you need to talk.
- Call the Wîchihîwâuwin Helpline at 1-833-632-4357 to talk to someone. The service is offered in English and French. Cree speakers and traditional healers are also available upon request. Wîchihîwâuwin is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.