Blackout Wednesday is an unofficial holiday that many people are familiar with, even if they don’t know it.

Blackout Wednesday, also known as “Drinksgiving,” is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and it doesn’t take much thought to discern why the date has been given such a dubious title.  Thanksgiving is the biggest drinking holiday of the year, according to multiple sources.  And the Wednesday prior is the most popular day of the holiday to binge-drink.

This “holiday” began as a college tradition to kickstart the long weekend break before returning to school for finals.  But since so much of the workforce is also off for the holiday, it has become common for much of America to drink heavily the day before the big meal and celebration.

Now, “Blackout Wednesday” has become a popular trend and a major marketing opportunity.  Those in the alcohol sales business have begun to capitalize on the spike in consumption with targeted ad campaigns that fuel the problem.  And it is a problem.

Since the COVID 19 pandemic caused 2020 to be anything but a “normal” year, we must go back to 2019 to fully appreciate the trend.

In 2019 there was a 173 percent increase in sales of “shots” of liquor on Thanksgiving Eve compared to the Wednesday prior. Sales of alcohol increased across the board by 31 percent on average.

Going back a little further, we see that while the unofficial holiday’s title may be new, but the trend isn’t.  Data from nearly 3,000 restaurants in 2016 showed a 23 percent increase in overall restaurant alcohol sales on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, compared to the week prior.

So, why is this a problem?  Unfortunately, the day before Thanksgiving is also one of the busiest travel days of the year. So much so that some airlines even charge an additional fee just for buying a ticket that day.  So, what do many people do instead?  Drive.

According to Marcel Gemme of Addicted.org, celebrations like Blackout Wednesday normalize binge drinking, contribute to problematic drinking, and increase the risk of DUI charges and fatalities.  During Thanksgiving, chances of DUI fatalities in America increase by 77 percent.

It’s such a problem that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has started a “#BoycottBlackoutWednesday” campaign on social media, hoping to reach more people and save lives.  This is a direct response to the online marketing campaigns that are hoping to capitalize on the action by using the hashtag #BlackoutWednesday to increase sales. But the problem is, sales don’t really need help because the pandemic has already lent a hand.

According to Forbes, researchers found that sales of alcoholic beverages increased by 34 percent between April and June last year compared to the same period in 2019. And the consequences showed up almost immediately, with some hospitals reporting as much as a 30 percent increase in admissions for alcohol-related conditions last year, compared to 2019.

COVID-19 is known for its toll on American lives.  But what we’re discovering is the fallout from this virus, the unforeseen consequences, that are now rearing their head.  For instance, the pandemic dramatically worsened America’s already horrific problem of addiction and substance misuse.  The year 2020 now holds the record for the most drug overdose deaths in US history, with more than 93,000.

Increased stress is the common factor contributing to the spike in self-medication.  People spent around a year isolated in their homes, dealing with the unwelcome changes the pandemic brought.  And many of them turned to substances to cope.

Last year, many of us couldn’t safely celebrate Thanksgiving.  This year, it’s looking like many people will choose to enjoy themselves finally.  We all deserve it.  But let’s not let that be a reason to indulge so much that it’s dangerous.  We’ve survived the pandemic; let’s not kill ourselves celebrating it now.

Joseph Kertis is an experienced healthcare professional turned journalist. His experience in the field of substance abuse and addiction recovery provides a unique insight into one of our Nation’s most challenging epidemics. He utilizes this knowledge in his writing to give an expert viewpoint that spreads awareness through education.

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