Substance Abuse Treatment During the Holidays - Better to Go Now or Wait?

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Psychiatrist Dr. Mark Schiller explains the dangers of waiting to seek addiction treatment until after the holidays.

By allowing the behavior to continue, you may be aiding in the person's, or your own demise

Many people who have a problem with drugs or alcohol, or know someone who does, are waiting until after the holidays to take action.

"While waiting may seem like a humane thing to do for a loved one who needs help to stop using drugs or alcohol, it actually puts them, and you, at risk," says Dr. Mark Schiller, a psychiatrist at Bayside Marin Treatment Program in San Rafael, California.

"By allowing the behavior to continue, you may be aiding in the person's, or your own demise," adds Dr. Schiller who says the safest course of action is a swift one. "If the addict knows he or she is going into rehab on the 27th, then there will usually be 'one last hurrah' with the substance, which could result in an arrest, accident or overdosing."

Enrollment in chemical dependency treatment programs and psychiatric admissions are at their lowest level around the holidays. Sometimes people in pain don't want to damper the spirits of others who are filled with holiday cheer. But that façade soon begins to crumble as statistics show that anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts escalate immediately afterwards in what's known as a "broken promise effect" - high expectations resulting in disappointment and the return to "normal" life.

Another possible source of distress that is common at this time of year is the tendency to take stock of one's life, and for some, that picture might look pretty dismal. But the safest place to do that kind of reflection might just be in a residential addiction treatment program.

Anyone suffering from substance abuse and/or emotional problems deserves to have hope this holiday season. No matter how difficult the situation, there have been others who have been there before and recovered.

"If you are in emotional pain, admit it," says Dr. Schiller. Sometimes just making the decision to do something makes people feel better, notes Schiller, adding that "with the right treatment, this really can be a happy new year."

Mark Schiller, M.D., is a psychiatrist at Bayside Marin, an intimate, private Chemical Dependency Treatment Program that also treats dual diagnosis clients. Dr. Schiller is also in private practice in Corte Madera and San Francisco.


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Darlene DuCharme

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