High alcohol consumption during holiday season has led to rehab for many: expert

Overindulging over the summer break has left many Australians looking for help, experts say. (AAP)

The hangover from the party season has left many Australians searching for rehab help, according to experts in the industry.

First there was the holiday, then came the hangover. Now? It's rehab season.

A spike in Australians self medicating and over indulging during the summer holidays has left many seeking rehabilitation services, according to addictions experts.

While the reasons for lapses and relapses vary greatly, the emotional strain of Christmas holidays and the booze-filled festivities of New Year's Day, Australia Day and all the parties in between take a toll.

"It's really going to ramp up now," says CEO of Melbourne's DayHab clinic Nick Hall.

"People present for treatment when some sort of crisis happens - the holiday period, especially Christmas, is a difficult time for a lot of people.

"It's emotional, it's about family and many struggle because there's relationship issues."

Himself a counsellor of 16 years, Dr Hall says a reliance on alcohol or other substances is a symptom of a bigger problem - people not coping with emotions.

Nearly 20 per cent of Australians exceed the lifetime risk guideline by consuming more than two standard drinks a day on average, while alcohol remains the principal drug that leads to treatment (32 per cent), according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Over summer, the mixture of family issues, financial stress and parties becomes a problematic cocktail that leads too many people to pick up drink after drink, Dr Hall says.

"Imagine being in the madness and trying to hold all your shit together," he says.

It's exactly this sentiment that drives people in droves to Sydney-based addictions counsellor Chantale Ishac, who says the post-holiday period marks a peak in referrals from existing and new clients.

"When kids get back to school and we get back to our careers ... instead of feeling refreshed to start the work year, people feel they are returning from a war zone," says the CEO of Addiction Intervention Services.

The addictions expert urges people to stop being in denial and ask themselves a few important questions, including whether they stick to the amount they promise themselves and whether their actions are damaging their mental health, finances, career or relationships.

Although people turn to many different "crutches" to self medicate, such as illicit drugs, gambling and prescription medication, Ms Ishac says alcohol dependency can go unnoticed because of the nation's drinking culture and societal normalisation.

Excessive alcohol consumption is the leading contributor to illness and death for Australians aged up to 44.

Between 2011 and 2016, December has recorded the highest number of alcohol-related presentations to emergency departments across 86 units in NSW, according to HealthStats data.

St Vincent's Hospital Alcohol and Drug Service specialist Dr Craig Rodgers says problems associated with alcohol such as withdrawal seizures are not publicised enough - or people just don't want to hear them.

"Ice is generally well publicised as the scourge of the nation," he told AAP.

"But there's much more data saying that alcohol is likely to be associated with domestic violence and with road accidents.

Dr Rodgers urges consumers to watch how much they drink, especially because many can't identify a standard drink.

"Most people think a standard drink is a schooner but it's a mini and a glass of wine poured at home is probably three standard drinks."

Source: AAP - SBS

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