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"When done in moderation, drinking can be a positive component of any holiday gathering. It can help people relax and, for many, relieve stress," says Dr. John M. Grohol, a psychologist and publisher of PsychCentral.com.
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updated 12/6/2005 4:58:43 PM ET 2005-12-06T21:58:43

Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, the word "holiday" does not derive from the Anglo-Saxon words for "drinking too much," but it can sure seem like that at times.

The word "holiday" is a contraction of the words "holy days," periods often of great spirituality and pious reflection. And to many people around the world, that is exactly what they are. However, these days, to more and more people the only spirit associated with the "holidays" is 90 proof and poured over ice.

There are many reasons why alcoholic intake escalates during this season. Partly, this is due to the convivial air that pervades the run-up to the New Year. Companies throw office parties. Families come together over magnificent feasts. Old friends come to town. The streets are lit with festive lights and stores are filled with wonderful things to buy or eat.

But it is also due to the stress of the period, too. Office parties can cause anxiety. Families drive us crazy. Old friends lure us out to old haunts. Some of us have no family or friends at all. Those brightly lit shop windows act like a magnet on our wallets.

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In order to combat, or at least ameliorate, the impact that holidays have on our psyches and bank accounts, it is hardly surprising that many people indulge in seasonal binge-drinking. In fact, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States in New York City, the $49 billion distilled-spirits industry makes more than 25% of its profits from Thanksgiving to the New Year.

Of course, all that alcoholic intake does more than simply make one's mother-in-law more tolerable. It also can have a detrimental physical and social effect long after the hangover has worn off.

"When done in moderation, drinking can be a positive component of any holiday gathering. It can help people relax and, for many, relieve stress," says Dr. John M. Grohol, a psychologist and publisher of PsychCentral.com. "But, drinking too much can lead to all sorts of problems. People tend to become uninhibited, leading to behavior they often later regret."

While improper conduct toward your boss, or his wife, at the office party can have profound professional repercussions, getting snockered every night even without managing to offend anyone is bad for your health. And don't kid yourself otherwise. Sure, a glass of red wine delivers healthful antioxidants, but that’s just one glass, not two or three. And the last we checked tequila shots had no conceivable health benefits whatsoever.

Last, the potential damage you do to your liver is nothing compared to what could happen if you drink and drive. According to Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in Austin, Tex, in 2001, more than 2,050 people were killed in the U.S. due to alcohol-related crashes between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

So, while we certainly empathize with anyone who needs a few glasses of cheer to navigate the holidays, we do urge you do it as far away as possible from automobiles and people who sign your paychecks. Looking on the bright side, however, the holidays don't last forever, and before you know it, you'll find yourself in the new year, poorer and with a possible case of delirium tremens, but hopefully one of your New Year's resolutions was to take it easier in January.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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