The festive season is a time when people gather socially with family and friends across the world. But sometimes it can be ruined by too much alcohol. While many will reach January 2015 and look back over the season with happy memories, others will remember the bad effects of drinking too much — headaches, sickness, loss of memory and embarrassing behaviour. Christmas is a time for celebration and getting together with friends and family. However, the greatest problems occur when people get drunk. It’s then that the accidents, fights, problems with relationships and domestic violence increase. It’s also the little things that affect families like being too weak to participate in family events. We know that people who drink too much alcohol can endanger their health both in the immediate and long term. This is why the festive season is an important time for people to be informed about how to drink alcohol safely and be careful to avoid putting their health at risk. The US-based Global Health and Medical Research Council (GHMRC) recommends that men and women drink no more than two standard drinks on any given day in order to reduce the long term risks of alcohol consumption. These risks include an increased likelihood of developing cardiovascular problems, diabetes, cancer and liver disorders. The GHMRC guideline advises that men should drink no more than three-four units of alcohol per day, and women should drink no more than two-three units per day. Even if you do not drink all week, you are not advised to save up your units in order to drink them all in one night. There are a number of immediate risks associated with alcohol consumption during the festive season, which arise because alcohol reduces motor and sensory skills, and also inhibitions. In the immediate term, excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of trauma and death (for example, if someone is very drunk and passes out, they may stop breathing or choke). Some individuals find the holiday season to be a real challenge. Those who are recovering alcoholics will be surrounded by temptation. It is recommended that people in early recovery try to completely avoid all social functions where alcohol is served. Rwanda and Burundi are the 2nd highest consumers of alcohol per capita in the East African region, each registering 22.0 litres per year. The first is Uganda with 23.7 litres of pure alcohol , Kenyans follow with a registered 18.9 litres of alcohol consumed per capita while Tanzania consumes only 18.4 litres per capita. World health Organisation statistics released in May this year show that 3.3 million deaths in 2012 were due to harmful use of alcohol. Alcohol consumption cannot only lead to dependence but also increases people’s risk of developing more than 200 diseases including liver cirrhosis and some cancers. WHO says that on average every person in the world aged 15 years or older drinks 6.2 litres of pure alcohol per year. But as less than half the population (38.3%) actually drinks alcohol, this means that those who drink consume on average 17 liters of pure alcohol annually. The report also points to the fact that a higher percentage of deaths among men than among women are from alcohol-related causes — 7.6% of men’s deaths and 4% of women’s deaths. “More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption,” says Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director-General for Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health. The report clearly shows that there is no room for complacency when it comes to reducing the harmful use of alcohol. So, make sure you take care this holiday. While it’s okay to have a drink, doing it excessively is the problem. The last place you want to end up during the holiday season is a hospital because of an alcohol-related incident. You could also plan activities for your family that don’t involve alcohol. Responsible alcohol use can send the message to children that alcohol doesn’t have to be part of every social situation to have a good time.