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Buffy Naylor

Buffy Naylor, managing editor of Channel Partners, offers tips, tactics and topics to help partners manage their own businesses so they can focus on helping clients with theirs.

Holiday Spirits: Handle With Care

- Blog

Buffy Naylor’Tis the season for holiday office parties, and even if your name is Rudolph, you shouldn’t be leaving yours with a shiny red nose.

Everyone wants to celebrate during the holidays. Unfortunately, that means more people are likely to drink beyond their limits during this time of year than at others, and some will suffer adverse consequences that range from fights to falls to traffic crashes.

Holiday party-goers often put themselves and others at risk because they don't understand how alcohol affects them during an evening of celebratory drinking.

Holiday revelers may not recognize that critical decision-making abilities and driving-related skills are already diminished long before the physical signs of intoxication appear.

Initially, alcohol acts as a stimulant, and people who drink may feel upbeat and excited. But alcohol soon decreases inhibitions and judgment, and can lead to reckless decisions. Who doesn’t know some story about eggnog-fueled insanity at an office party?

As more alcohol is consumed, reaction time suffers and behavior becomes poorly controlled, sometimes even aggressive. Continued drinking causes the slurred speech and loss of balance that are typically associated with being drunk. At higher levels, alcohol acts as a depressant, which causes the drinker to become sleepy and in some cases pass out or experience blackouts — periods during which a person does not remember what happened while he or she was intoxicated. At very high levels, drinkers face the danger of life-threatening alcohol poisoning.

During an evening of drinking, it's easy to misjudge how long alcohol's effects last. Many people believe they will begin to sober up – and can drive safely – once they stop drinking and have a cup of coffee. In fact, alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink has been finished. Alcohol in the stomach and intestines continues to enter the bloodstream, impairing judgment and coordination for hours after consumption has stopped.

People, like holiday cocktails, come in all shapes and sizes, so alcohol affects each of us differently. But this much is common to all of us: There’s no way to speed up the brain's recovery from alcohol and no way to make good decisions when you are drinking too much, too fast.

Here are a few tips for drinking responsibly at parties this holiday season — and all year through:

  • Pace yourself. In the United States, one “standard" drink contains approximately 14 grams of pure alcohol. You’ll find that in 12 ounces of regular beer (which is usually about 5 percent alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (typically about 12 percent alcohol) or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (about 40 percent alcohol, although it varies by beverage). Have no more than one standard drink per hour and no more than four drinks for men or three for women per day.
  • Have "drink spacers." Make every other drink a nonalcoholic one.
  • Make a plan for getting home safely. Many areas have free ride programs on holiday nights. And if you plan on using a designated driver, remember that must be someone who hasn't had any alcohol, not simply the person in your group who drank the least.

Follow managing editor Buffy Naylor on Twitter.

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