How to Healthily Negotiate a Booze-Filled Holiday Party (Without Embarrassment the Next Day)

by Lexi Petronis

Romulo YanesRomulo Yanes Invites to holiday parties are starting to freely flow--which means the cocktails soon will be too. And there's nothing wrong with drinking in some holiday spirits, right? Well, according to a survey by Caron Treatment Centers lots of us use holiday parties as an excuse to binge drink--and that's where the trouble (and the embarrassment!) comes in. The survey found that 60 percent of respondents have seen inappropriate behavior by someone at family or workplace parties, and 50 percent have witnessed a coworker or supervisor share inappropriate details about themselves (or their colleagues). And because you really don't want to be that person everyone's talking about the next day, Dr. Harris B. Straytner, vice president of Caron Treatment Centers and New York regional clinical director, has these dos and don'ts for healthily handling the cocktail situation--while still having fun.


Before and during the party, DO avoid greasy and salty foods--and eat a balanced meal filled with nutrients and vitamins. Drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea--you'll get drunk way faster than you want to, which can possibly lead to doing embarrassing things like serenading your boss with a selection of show tunes...or even riskier behaviors, like hooking up with someone you wish you hadn't. Straytner says to avoid salt (it will trigger thirst and make you drink more), and stay away from greasy foods (which can upset your stomach). "It's a good idea to go heavier on starches to help absorb the alcohol," he says.

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DO drink noncarbonated water. Even though sparkling water still counts as water, the carbonation will "chemically speed up intoxication," Straytner says--so sip the still stuff instead. "A good rule of thumb is eight ounces of water for every drink," he says.

DON'T drink coffee. "It's a misconception that coffee helps you sober up-it only results in a wide-awake intoxicated state!" Straytner says.


DO avoid these specific cocktails. The carbonation rule applies to alcohol too, says Straytner. Things like champagne or other bubbly cocktails will get you tipsy faster. Forgo dark spirits (whiskey, brandy)--"Your liver has a tough time metabolizing them due to certain chemical toxins they contain," he says--and super-sweet drinks (like cocktails made with fruit punch), which can lead to hypoglycemia and dizziness.

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DON'T have more than one or two drinks over the course of one or two hours. Forty-four percent of Caron's survey respondents thought that having three or more drinks during a holiday party was OK if the person could "hold their liquor" and had no intention of driving. But, says Straytner: "Consider that one and a half ounces of hard liquor is equivalent to a 12-ounce can of beer, and both are equal to between four to five ounces of wine," he says. "So anywhere between four and seven drinks--such as vodka--may be considered 'acceptable' to drink at one time, but this is a dangerous misconception." The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines low-risk drinking as no more than three drinks per day for women, but Straytner says it's not that easy to pick one number for everyone. "There are many factors involved," he says. "Women may become intoxicated more quickly due to height, weight, and hormonal changes. History of alcoholism in one's family and medication can also have an impact." One or two drinks consumed in the same number of hours is what Straytner considers "safe."

DON'T confront someone if you think she has a drinking problem while she's drinking. If you're tired of witnessing your friend or family member do something wildly inappropriate while drinking at a party, the party is not the right time or place to talk to them about it. "It's never a good idea to speak to a loved one when he or she is in the process of drinking," Straytner says. "Your message will only be ignored and it may cause a scene." Instead, wait until the person is sober--and speak to him or her one-on-one, in a nonconfrontational manner.

What's your holiday party schedule looking like so far? Do you have any rules in place for keeping the cocktails under control?

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