Skip to content

Is Drug Addiction more Dangerous during the Winter?

Is Drug Addiction more Dangerous during the Winter?Drug addiction is often much more dangerous than many people realize. Each year, the government releases the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report, and it provides statistics on drug-related medical emergencies. The dangers are highlighted in the 2011 numbers, which include the following:

  • More than 1.6 drug-related emergencies occurred for every 1,000 people.
  • People aged 18 to 20 had nearly 2.5 emergencies per 1,000 people.
  • Emergency room visits involving drugs doubled between 2004 and 2011.
  • Illicit and prescription drugs were equally represented in 2.5 million total emergencies.

For that same year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) counted more than 40,000 drug-induced and 26,000 alcohol-induced deaths, which does not include fatalities related to side effects like liver failure. By comparison, workplace injuries accounted for only 4,000 deaths. While drug addiction is dangerous throughout the year, the risks increase for many during the winter months.

Holiday Substance Use

The astronomical winter stretches from late December to late March, but holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and the entire Christmas season are commonly associated with winter. During the holidays, recovering and current drug addicts often struggle with relapse or increased use for several reasons, including the following:

  • Increased stress and family pressure that can trigger drug cravings
  • An abundance of social events involving heavy alcohol consumption
  • Days off from work or school allowing for more drug use opportunities
  • Potential monetary gifts providing more resources for drug purchases
  • Time spent with certain family members who tend to motivate use

The holidays provide several potential scenarios in which increased use or relapse might occur, but other factors can also influence use in the winter months.

Winter Drug Abuse

People who live in areas with seasonal weather have additional challenges related to snow, blizzards, flooding, and other meteorological issues. The weather changes can also influence drug use in different ways, including the following:

  • Being stuck at home in bad weather can encourage drug use to overcome boredom.
  • Excessive prescription drug use may be used to counter cold weather effects like pain and lethargy.
  • Self-medicating seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression caused by colder weather and less daylight, is common.

Likewise, Valentine’s Day is another celebration that can motivate mood spikes and substance abuse, especially for people who feel alone or who recently lost a romantic partner.

Winter Drug Abuse Risks

Driving a vehicle or operating machinery while high is a risky addiction behavior that occurs throughout the year, but the potential consequences for such behavior can be worse in the winter. There are several examples of the increased risk, including the following:

  • Driving in rainy or snowy weather already increases the likelihood of accidents.
  • Addicts driven to homelessness have fewer protections against exposure and starvation.
  • Weather limitations on transportation make it more difficult to handle an overdose.
  • Drug abuse side effects can amplify symptoms of the flu and other winter illnesses.
  • Drug-related suicide attempts spike in the fall and winter months, which a 2011 DAWN report partly blamed on poor winter weather.

Treatment is the most effective way to overcome addiction and mitigate the risks. Rehabilitation centers help with potential services like medically supervised detoxification, integrated care for mental disorders, stress management tools, behavior therapies, and trauma counseling. Addicts in need of extensive overall assistance can also utilize a case manager to coordinate services and support advocacy.

Recovery Help

Our admissions coordinators can help explain treatment options, recommend facilities, and answer any questions you might have. We can also discuss financial support options and check health insurance policies for treatment benefits. We are available 24 hours a day so please call our toll-free helpline now.