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Holiday drinking - keep it safe!

The Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) has some useful tips for you on how to drink responsibly over the festive season.
Holiday drinking - keep it safe!The festive season is a time for fun, relaxation and plenty of merriment. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of irresponsibility - with unpleasant consequences.

"With many holiday-makers taking to the road over the festive season and in a party mood, it is important to keep a responsible mindset," advises Adrian Botha, of The Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA), an organization, supported by the alcohol beverage industry, which aims to reduce alcohol related-harm by combating abuse and promoting only the responsible enjoyment of alcohol beverages.

"We believe that people are still able to enjoy themselves when they are on holiday, but that they should be responsible and conscientious about the choices and decisions they make," added Botha.

There are ways to avoid putting yourself at risk during the party season. Do not leave things to chance or relying on others to be responsible. It is up to each individual to be vigilant and take the necessary precautions to be safe over this time.

Here are some tips from the ARA to enjoy social time responsibly with your family and friends:
  • Stay in control of your drinking consumption. Very often when in a party environment, people are trying to keep up with others and lose track of their consumption;
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after drinking alcohol;
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach. Partygoers use the expression 'eating is cheating', but do not be fooled as drinking on an empty stomach increases the alcohol level in the blood far more quickly. Always eat before drinking alcohol and try to eat while drinking - choose foods that are high in fat and carbohydrates, i.e. burger and chips;
  • Plan ahead - before going out always have a plan as to how you will get home should the situation get out of hand and you may not be in a position to drive. Either, agree upfront with a friend that he/she will be the designated driver, club together with your friends to hire a car or mini-bus with a driver and keep the number of a taxi company on your cellphone and ensure that you have enough money set aside in your purse/wallet for this;
  • Avoid drinking with partners who are prone to aggressive behaviour;
  • Avoid lifts from strangers, especially when intoxicated;
  • Do not swim when you have had alcohol;
  • Drinking on the beach is against the law and can be very dangerous, as can drinking at the river or the dam for those who live inland.
Alcohol can affect your reason, judgement and coordination, and slows down your reaction time. This means that if you drink to excess, you are putting yourself at risk. The results could be relatively minor - perhaps you might not realise that your jokes are not going down too well - or it might lead to serious risky behaviour, such as unprotected sex.

Drink spiking is also on the increase and more and more cases are being reported. Drink spiking is usually when a drug or additional alcohol is added to a beverage without the knowledge of the beverage consumer. This will alter their behaviour and make them very susceptible to abuse. The drugs usually have no taste, odour or colour so will go unnoticed.

As this phenomenon is on the increase, ARA provides the following advice to prevent becoming the next victim of drink spiking:
  • Buy your own drinks;
  • Never leave your drink unattended;
  • Always keep your drink in your hand;
  • Do not accept drinks from someone that you do not know;
  • Make sure the drink is opened and poured in front of you;
  • Keep an eye on your friends' drinks.
Lastly, but very importantly, as alcohol affects your judgement and reaction times, driving is out of the question. The physical and emotional trauma caused by drunk drivers is entirely preventable. Alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common causes of death among individuals aged 15 - 20 years old. The message is simple: if you have been drinking, do not drive.

Botha concluded by saying that drinking alcohol is a matter of individual judgement and accountability. It has been a part of social life and celebrations around the world for thousands of years. Drinking sensibly means you can enjoy yourself - and stay safe.

Be a role model and if you drink, do so responsibly. If you have a drinking problem, or think you may have one, seek help.

Where to get help:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous South Africa National Helpline +27 (0) 861 435 722
  • Narconon South Africa +27 (0) 11 622 3998
  • AL-ATEEN General Service Number +27 (0) 21 595 4508
  • Life-Line +27 (0) 861 322 322.

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