Primed to party: The heightened risk of substance misuse over Memorial Day weekend

Primed to party: The heightened risk of substance misuse over Memorial Day weekend
Primed to party: The heightened risk of substance misuse over Memorial Day weekend(Adam Mintzer)
Published: May. 26, 2021 at 10:01 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Memorial Day weekend could mark the first time people see old friends, go to a bar, or head out of town in more than a year.

But the excitement of the long weekend combined with months of being stuck at home could also be dangerous, according to a substance misuse professional.

“It set up this perfect storm for people to misuse. People were staying home alone and were drinking a lot more at home. And in isolation, people didn’t have their normal support systems,” said Robbie Robertson, Director of Communications for Lexington/Richland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council.

Robertson said many people who turned to alcohol or drugs as they dealt with loss, anxiety, and stress during the pandemic might find those habits hard to break. And a three-day holiday weekend that is often dubbed the unofficial start of summer may make people feel free to celebrate and over drink, while also being able to tell themselves they’ll have enough time to recover before the start of the workweek.

“People are primed I think because they have been socially isolated, and they are ready to go out and party,” he said.

This worries Robertson not only because people can harm themselves when misusing alcohol or drugs, but can hurt others.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drunk driving is the cause of about 28 percent of all traffic deaths. And so far this year there have been 388 traffic deaths in South Carolina, which is 62 more than this time last year, according to the SC Dept. of Public Safety.

Robertson is also concerned over the holiday a lot of minors will be illegally drinking and end up in the hospital in addition to breaking the law.

Over Memorial Day weekend, people under age 21 ending in the ER jumps 27 percent compared to other days, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

I think a weekend like Memorial Day might be the first time people try to use for the first time, especially younger people,” Robertson said. “You got a lot of kids who are getting out of high school who haven’t seen people for this last year or they are just starting to see people again, so I think everyone is primed to party.”

To stay safe Robertson recommends:

  • Planning how many drinks you will consume before heading out
  • Establish a designated driver if you plan to drink or plan to grab a taxi or ride-share
  • Never leave your drink unattended
  • Do not operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Do not mix alcohol with prescription medications or other substances.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration the confidential helpline is 1-800-662-4357.

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