[Guest blog] Staying safe while drinking at the work Christmas party

Independent Medical Advisory Panel at Drinkaware; Medical Director, Castle Craig Hospital, Scotland
06 December 2017

Whether it’s a glass of mulled wine while browsing the Christmas markets, a hot apple cider at your local pub or the small sherry that you leave out for Santa – you might enjoy a festive drink or two at this time of year. And the work Christmas party is no exception. It can be a great opportunity to let your hair down and celebrate the season of goodwill with your colleagues. But sometimes it’s easy to get swept up in the festivities and forget about your tolerance level to alcohol.

Picture of christmas decorations and champagne glasses.

Lots of workplace Christmas parties start early in the day and go on late into the night, which means you could end up drinking over a long period of time. So if you want to join in on the celebrations without drinking too much, try planning ahead and thinking of a few ways to limit your alcohol intake in advance. Here are my top five tips.

  1. Eat a good meal beforehand
  2. Although fast food might seem very appealing late at night, in actual fact it’s better to eat something before you start drinking. This will help your body to absorb alcohol more slowly.

  3. Leave your glass half full
  4. You might think that constantly having a drink in your glass will encourage you to drink more. But if your glass looks empty, it’s more likely that an overly generous colleague might keep topping you up and you’ll end up drinking more. So try to drink slowly and keep something in your glass at all times to avoid being poured another.

  5. Have a non-alcoholic drink on hand
  6. Spread out your alcoholic drinks by drinking water or a non-alcoholic drink in between each one. This will help slow down how much alcohol is getting to your brain. Drinking alcohol can also make your body become dehydrated which can contribute to a hangover the next morning. So aim to drink 2-3 glasses of water throughout the party and one large glass right before bed.

  7. Ask for lower strength drinks
  8. Don't be afraid to ask for low strength and reduced alcohol drinks.

    • Wine. If you’re in a bar or restaurant, ask for lower strength wine and a smaller glass (125ml or 175 ml). If you’re in the supermarket or wine shop on the other hand, check the alcohol percentage of wine before you buy and you might be able to find a lower strength bottle at 10.5% or 11 %.
    • Beer or cider. Ask the bartender what lower strength beers, lagers and ciders they have available and opt for one that’s 3.8% or lower if possible.
    • Spirits. Dilute spirits with a sugar-free fizzy drink, soda or tonic water. Ask for them to be served in a tall glass and sip it slowly.
    • Shandys and spritzers. Add lemonade to beer to make a shandy or sparkling water to white wine to make a spritzer.
    • Cocktails. Give the barman a nice challenge and order a non-alcoholic mocktail.

  9. Organise a safe trip home
  10. Make arrangements with a friend or colleague to leave the party by a certain time and plan how you’re going to get home safely. Leave the car keys at home and let your loved ones know if you’ll be travelling late, alone or when it’s dark so they know to look out for you.

And remember, if you’d prefer not to drink alcohol at your work Christmas party, don’t feel peer pressured into it. Chances are your colleagues like you just as you are, and no one ever got fired for staying sober!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Drinkaware is an independent charity. We're here to help people make better choices about drinking by providing impartial, evidence-based information, advice and practical resources.

Professor Jonathan Chick
Independent Medical Advisory Panel at Drinkaware; Medical Director, Castle Craig Hospital, Scotland

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