— -- Super Bowl Sunday can mean lots of fun with family and friends, but for alcoholics or recovering alcoholics it can also mean a hazardous night that can lead to heavy drinking.
Substance counselors prepare for big events like Thanksgiving, Christmas and even the Super Bowl because those are moments when heightened emotions and lots of alcohol can fuel a night of heavy drinking.
At University of Colorado Hospital’s Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation, the staff prepares to get an influx of calls in the hours and days after the Super Bowl.
Dr. Patrick Fehling, an addiction psychiatrist at the Denver-based center, said the big gameday can be particularly tough on those who recently quit drinking.
“People will have recently stopped drinking and then the Super Bowl will come around,” said Fehling. “Then everyone is drinking and it’s too much for them to handle.”
Fehling said some people fall in line with the crowd thinking they can just have a few beers, while other will try to resist for as long as possible but give in once they’re alone.
“When they’re in a social setting of high amounts of binging and high amounts of alcohol all around,” Fehling said of recovering alcoholics. “Their craving is through the roof. The craving is one step before a relapse.”
Drinking while watching the Super Bowl seems to be a longstanding tradition and Americans purchased 52 million cases of beer before the big game, according to a 2009 Nielson study.
A 2014 study from the University of Buffalo found that even among approximately 100 heavy drinking men, the Super Bowl lead to especially high amounts of alcohol consumption.
The men were found to drink an average of 8.7 drinks on Super Bowl Sunday up from 6 drinks on a Saturday night, the day with the most alcohol consumption on average.
“The fact that even among adults who drink at high levels, drinking increases on Super Bowl Sunday. I think this highlights the fact that Super Bowl Sunday is associated with hazardous drinking,” said Ronda Dearing, lead author of the study at the Research Institute of Addictions at the University of Buffalo.
In Denver Fehling said the big game can also have unexpected consequences for those new to recovery.
“We have people who discharge from treatment and want to watch the game,” said Fehling. “Just the pull for them to drink and enjoy the spectacle,” is too strong.
Origins Behavioral Healthcare, Florida-based company which treats people with substance abuse, starts to hear from more concerned family members after the Super Bowl.
Rachel Docekal, vice president of marketing at Origins Behavioral HealthCare, said people will start to call to ask about how to get help for a loved one or how to approach the idea of an intervention.
“Problems that have been there throughout the year really come to light,” said Docekal, who said family members will be around to witness how much their loved ones are drinking on a daily basis.
“People find themselves in a situation where they feel embarrassed or had a blackout and recognized they need help,” said Docekal. In these situations, people may feel that their families will help them get treatment.
Docekal said it’s important for those who wake up on Monday and think they have a problem to seek help.
“Call their local resource and ask if they can provide some help,” said Docekal. “If they think they need help they probably do and they shouldn’t wait.”