Holidays Can Trigger Opioid Use

The upcoming holiday season, for someone either in recovery or struggling with opioid use disorder, can be an especially trying time — particularly in this most unusual of years — and may lead to a relapse.

A Dangerous Time of Year

According to the CDC, two of the most dangerous months of the year for drug-and-alcohol-related deaths relate to the holidays. The emotional strains of the holidays coupled with  winter weather take a grave toll. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects 6 percent of Americans while another 14 percent experience “winter blues.”1 During the holiday months of December and January, the CDC reports that alcohol-and-drug-induced deaths climb2 — since 1999 nearly 91,000 deaths have been reported just for the month of December.3

Clearly, the most wonderful time of the year is anything but for those dealing with opioid use disorder. A scene of happy families gathered around a Christmas tree can be replaced by much more difficult times of family conflict, financial strain, loneliness, grief, and seasonal affective disorder.

A survey conducted by American Addiction Centers3 indicated that the majority of Americans are either overwhelmingly or moderately stressed during the holidays.

Pandemic, Stress, Depression and Anxiety

Topping the list of holiday stressors is financial concerns related to holiday spending. Financial pressures, in part due to lost wages impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, has made this year more worrisome for many families. A second stressor is strained family relationships. Family gatherings can often reignite old negative family dynamics. Others may feel lonely if they are without close and loving family relationships or missing a loved one. This will be exacerbated by quarantine restrictions due to COVID-19.

Seasonal stressors tell only part of the story. Depression also takes hold during the holiday months. Some 25 percent of survey respondents reported higher levels of depression. Along with depression frequently comes anxiety — almost 62 percent of survey respondents reported being moderately anxious during the holidays.

Holidays Present Special Challenges

Heightened anxiety, stress and depression brought on by the holidays and current events can trigger thoughts of use and relapse. This holiday season presents special challenges for those in recovery or dealing with opioid use disorder, as well as the family members and loved ones supporting them.

For a safe and happy holiday, it is important to be aware of the dangers, triggers, and strategies needed to keep anxiety, depression, stress, and addiction under control.

Navigating this season can also be a time to promote discussion about the most current treatment options, including information on Speranza Therapeutics’ S.T.Genesis and programs that offer this opioid withdrawal device. The revolutionary new treatment option is an FDA-cleared, non-invasive device to help reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

Speranza Therapeutics supports patients on their recovery journey as they transition through detox and on to longer term treatment.