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5 tips for helping a loved one in recovery over the holidays

Holidays can be joyful, fun-filled celebrations — and they can also be full of pitfalls and setbacks for anyone in recovery from drug or alcohol misuse. While families gather for festivities, those struggling with these issues may find themselves in situations where emotional triggers make staying on the road to sobriety difficult.

According to the CDC, the most dangerous months of the year for drug-and-alcohol-related deaths are December, January and March, and nearly 91,000 deaths have been reported for the month of December since 1999. Beyond the ordinary holiday stresses, the COVID pandemic has made everything more challenging.

In a JAMA survey, about 1/3 of U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic, and 15% reported new or increased substance use to cope with pandemic-related stress. These statistics represent a deadly threat: The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reported a record 100,306 drug overdose deaths between April 2020 and April 2021 — a 28.5% increase.

But there are things you can do. If a loved one is on their recovery journey, here are steps you can take to support them, and to remove triggers and temptations from their path.