Holidays: Lock Up the Medicine Chest

Released: 12/18/2013 4:40 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Indiana University
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Newswise — BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The potential for misuse of prescription drugs and alcohol during the holidays increases because of social gatherings, tradition and travel, so public health experts at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington have a simple message: lock up your Rx drugs and be mindful of the amount of alcohol you consume and make available.

"We don't like to think of guests rifling through our medicine chests, but it is a possibility," said Courtney Stewart, research associate at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center. "So, play it safe. Guests will be using bathrooms and placing coats and purses in various rooms. Prescription drugs of any kind should be placed in a safe location where they are kept locked and out of the hands of guests."

The abundance of alcohol and alcohol advertising over the holidays can ramp up consumption for both social drinkers and people who might be struggling with their alcohol consumption.

"Party hosts may serve stronger drinks than are usually consumed, and guests may drink many more beverages while 'under the influence of conviviality and cheer,'" said Carole Nowicke, also a research associate at the IPRC. "Adults with alcohol problems and under-aged youth may find alcohol unmonitored and plentiful even in homes where alcohol typically is not available."

Stewart and Nowicke offer the following tips:

*Lock up or move all prescription medications to a safe location, such as a locked car or a drawer in a locked bedroom.

*Place over-the-counter medicines in a handy yet private location where you can dispense them to guests who may need an aspirin or antacid, etc.

*Choose non-alcoholic drinks at social events. "Just because it is a party doesn’t mean that you have to have a drink that contains alcohol," Stewart said. "Enjoy some hot cocoa or sparkling water and good conversation."

*Avoid binge drinking, which describes the amount of alcohol consumed in about two hours -- five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women.

*Recovering alcoholics could attend AA meetings, avoid activities with alcohol or bring their own drinks, such as soda, coffee or tea.

*Be aware of possible interactions between alcohol and medication

*Provide alternative beverages for younger guests and those who do not drink alcohol. Many recipes can be found online.

Excessive drinking can lead to impaired driving, which can be deadly, and also "holiday heart syndrome." Nowicke said emergency room patients with no previous history of cardiac problems report having a “funny feeling” in their chest, which sometimes is diagnosed as atrial fibrillation and could require medication, monitoring, further testing and follow-up care. She said the exact mechanism causing alcohol-related cardiac dysrhythmias is still under discussion in professional circles.

For more information about the prevention of abuse involving alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, visit the IPRC online.


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