Festive season is approaching. The feelings can be mixed: some people are excited to reunite with their loved ones and spend time with them. For some others, spending time at home with family members may not be as enjoyable. In order to cope with the anxiety and pressure, many choose to spend holidays, or specifically Christmas Day, in a state that will ease these unpleasant feelings: being high.
The correlation of marijuana use during Christmas days has been documented in recent research conducted by the Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors of the University of Washington: it was demonstrated that marijuana use is reaching an all year high during April (the celebration of the famous 4/20) and December (Fleming et al., 2021).
Getting high on Christmas day is an example of an emotional control strategy. With this term, we describe everything we do primarily to try to get rid of unwanted thoughts and feelings (Harris, 2019). The problem that may arise when trying to avoid unpleasant feelings, is that at the same time we avoid potential pleasant feelings too. In a way, by not being in the present moment, we close the door to try protecting ourselves.
This does not mean that this is all that someone strives to achieve when getting high. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, we always investigate the function and the workability of each action.
Does the result of the action mean that the person will avoid something or that they will just choose a celebratory recreational activity?
By examining whether something makes life richer and fuller, aligning with personal goals, everyone can determine whether an action is moving them towards or away from the life they want.
Would avoiding unpleasant feelings on Christmas Day be so bad? Avoiding things that create painful feelings is not inherently good or bad, it simply happens. When should we try to change it? When it is excessive, rigid or inappropriate, in a way that gets in a way of having a meaningful life (Harris, 2019).
If you are concerned for you or a loved one regarding substance use, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. You can book an appointment here.
Elena Marinopoulou is a Behaviour Analyst with Willingness Team. She works with children and adults and has a strong interest in parent training, sleep and feeding issues emerging during childhood, as well as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
Fleming, C., Duckworth, J., Patrick, M., Fairlie, A., Abdallah, D., & Lee, C. (2021). Calendar Month Variation in Alcohol and Marijuana Use in a Community Sample of Young Adults. Journal Of Studies On Alcohol And Drugs, 82(2), 169-177. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2021.82.169
Harris, R. (2019). ACT made simple (2nd ed.). Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.