HCA Virginia - March 17, 2022

While St. Patrick’s Day is a global celebration of Irish culture, it has also become synonymous with overindulgence and alcohol consumption. Its religious and reverent origins transitioned over time to a fixation with green beer. Hospitals typically see a spike in admissions with people coming to the ER during the holidays, and St. Patrick’s Day is no exception.

There is a lot of correlation between alcohol abuse and mental health. According to Dr. Walid Fawaz, an attending psychiatrist at HCA Virginia’s Tucker Pavilion, approximately 29% of people who suffer from mental health issues also use alcohol. When those who have a history of depression or anxiety drink, their symptoms oftentimes worse. Fawaz said he is concerned with three populations of people when it comes to certain holidays like St. Patrick’s Day when people are more inclined to binge drink.

At-risk populations

  • People who are in recovery
    People who have an alcohol abuse diagnosis usually have triggers for relapses, and gathering with others during the holidays is one of them. Celebrations go hand-in-hand with drinking, and they are around friends and family who may drink. Usually there is some kind of relapse spike with this population because it is difficult to resist the temptation. “It is difficult to resist and stay sober if everyone else around you is drinking,” Fawaz said. “We see a lot of people relapse – and once they start drinking, they get frustrated and drink even more.”
  • People who suffer from mental health issues
    Those who suffer from mental health illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, are the kind of patients who are at risk of getting worse if they start to drink. People who are depressed usually get more depressed when drinking alcohol, and the same thing happens with anxiety. There is also a heightened concern with those who are on medications because it is not safe to mix some prescriptions with alcohol. “Some diagnoses show that alcohol can induce anxiety, depression, mood disorder, and psychosis,” Fawaz said. “There is a risk of those who already suffer from these conditions drinking more and hurting themselves if they are not watching how much they drink or paying attention to binge drinking during holidays like St. Patrick’s Day.”
  • Adolescents
    Teenagers are the third at-risk group for binge drinking. They tend to act impulsively and sometimes sneak alcohol to have fun with friends. “They don’t pay attention to how much they’re drinking or the consequences, especially when it comes to drinking and driving,” Fawaz said. Physicians at Tucker Pavilion advise parents to watch their children and be careful around the holidays when there could signs of alcohol abuse.

How to avoid over consumption

There are tips to avoid putting yourself in a potentially harmful situation. For starters, Dr. Fawaz suggested finding different activities other than going out with a group who drinks, such as going to the movies or a restaurant that doesn’t have a bar. His advice for those who are in recovery is to continue sticking with your support group and stay away from people or places who may tempt you to drink. People can still celebrate and have a good time without being on the edge of relapse, he said.

Seek mental health care

Depression, anxiety, and fatigue are just a few common reasons to seek mental health care. If you feel like you would benefit from talking to a therapist, don’t hesitate to reach out. Many offer telehealth appointments for your convenience.