Newly released data that looks at the drinking patterns of more than 200,000 criminal offenders monitored 24/7 for alcohol consumption shows that even when Big Brother is watching, drinking increases nearly 27% between Thanksgiving and January 2nd.
Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc., (AMS) has monitored more than 200,000 criminal offenders since 2003 using a technology that tests your perspiration every 30 minutes, 24/7, to ensure clients are abstaining from alcohol. According to AMS, the rate of daily violations for offenders monitored with their technology jumps a whopping 27% during the holiday season.
AMS Chairman and CEO Mike Iiams says that the trending highlights how the pressures — and the pleasures — of the holiday season are difficult for everyone. “Whether it’s your in-laws or the economy or just temptations at the office party, the fact that we see such a statistically significant increase in violations for a group of people who are being tested — and know they are being tested — every 30 minutes for drinking underscores just how difficult an issue this is,” says Iiams.
Larry Vanderwoude, LCDC, CEO of Dallas-based Recovery Healthcare, agrees. “Emotions run very high during the holiday season, especially when it comes to meeting family expectations. And the natural coping skill for the alcoholic is to drink,” says Vanderwoude. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that two to three times more people are killed by drunk drivers during the holidays than any other time during the year.
According to AMS, which has monitored offenders in 48 states with its SCRAMx System (for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor), as the company enters its 8th year providing monitoring during the holiday season, the courts seem to have two approaches for addressing the social and behavioral issues that go hand-in-hand with the holiday season.
“Some programs, usually dealing with lower risk offenders, may opt to give people a break during the holidays, lightening up on some requirements or delaying them until after the first of the year,” says Iiams. “But each year, the courts dealing with the highest risk alcohol offenders clamp down even harder on the drinking during the holidays,” he says.
“They know if these offenders aren’t drinking, then they’re not drinking and driving, and they’re not drinking and abusing a spouse or child,” he adds. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, 75% of cases of domestic violence involve an offender who was drunk at the time of the offense.
To Iiams, their data trending, which is based on more than 18 million alcohol tests, serves as a cautionary tale for both courts and communities. “These are the hardcore drinkers who know they’re going to get caught and that there will be consequences, and they’re still struggling not to drink during the holidays. Imagine what’s happening with the ones who know they can get away with it,” he says.
Vanderwoude, whose company has monitored more than 17,000 offenders in Texas and Oklahoma with the SCRAMx System, says that the intensive monitoring they provide during the holidays can actually provide a sense of security for both the courts and even many of their clients. “It’s a type of safety net, working to deter relapse during the hardest time of the year,” he says.
“The ones that drink get caught, and there can be a sense of relief in knowing that for people who really struggle with addiction. But the ones that stay sober through the season often report that it’s the most rewarding and cherished holiday of their life,” he adds.