While any type of alcohol use carries some risk of harm, using alcohol as a mechanism for coping with anxiety carries a significant risk of addiction. No one should use alcohol as a method of “managing anxiety”. When people consume alcohol in this way, the conditions are much more likely to get worse.
Unfortunately, new information suggests that alcohol consumption statistics have skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not surprising that the pandemic has created a surge in fear among the American population. However, when alcohol consumption is added to the mix, it adds a very serious layer of risk. If consuming alcohol to manage anxiety often paves the way for alcohol addiction, what can families and public health officials do to discourage Americans from observed spikes in alcohol use during the Covid-19 crisis?
Fear, alcohol and Covid-19
A study published in Science Direct compiled and presented a detailed survey of alcohol consumption statistics during the Covid-19 health crisis. The results were pretty worrying. Among respondents, 29% of respondents said their alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic. People with depressive symptoms were 64% more likely to use alcohol during the pandemic. Of the respondents, younger respondents were most likely to report increased alcohol consumption.
The study authors Capasso et al. concluded that people who drink to cope with it, especially people struggling with anxiety and depression, are much more likely to have drinking problems, consume more alcohol, and drink alcohol more often during moments of high stress or trauma . Even in many Americans who had not contracted Covid-19, the authors found that alcohol consumption increased.
Another point of interest is the inverse relationship between Covid-19 risk factors and increased alcohol consumption. While Covid-19 is more dangerous for the elderly, the study authors found that the largest increase in anxiety-related alcohol consumption during the pandemic occurred in young adults. This revelation suggests that Covid-19 has had a drastic impact on the economy, job security, social life and other factors important to young people. After all, out of concern and fear for their older parents, grandparents, and friends, young people can experience strong symptoms of anxiety.
However, the increased fear of serious health and economic problems caused by Covid-19 is in no way a good reason to start consuming alcohol, not for every age group. Quote from the study authors, “The age effect observed in our study suggests that public health messages about substance use need to be adjusted by age group; and increasing substance use prevention and treatment efforts for those more likely to be problematic alcohol consumption in response to stress. Public outreach should focus on those most susceptible to both COVID-19 and problem alcohol use, including older adults and those with a history of mental disorders.
In another study, entitled “Anxiety and Alcohol Use Disorders, Comorbidity, and Treatment Considerations” (published in Alcohol Research Current Review), author Joshua P. Smith, Ph.D. postulates a strong link between anxiety and alcohol addiction. To quote his conclusion: “The comorbidity of anxiety disorders and AUDs” [Alcohol Use Disorders] is widespread and clinically relevant. A growing body of literature has shed light on the developmental pathways by which these disorders merge, including the common factor, self-medication and substance-induced pathways. “
A complex crisis for public health officials and lawyers
Given that anxiety predisposes to higher risk factors for alcohol abuse, it would be logical for families, communities, and public health officials to look for prevention options to reduce anxiety in the general population.
Addressing the triple threat of Covid-19, alcohol abuse and anxiety is not straightforward or easy. However, health advocates, be they doctors or family members, are likely to find that even addressing the risks of one of these issues will have a positive effect in reducing the risk in the other two. When a family member or health professional helps a person reduce their anxiety in healthy ways, their risk factors for excessive alcohol use are likely to decrease. And if a loved one is already abusing alcohol, family members and loved ones should address that alcohol abuse as a priority.
Addiction treatment for alcohol addiction
The risk factors related to Covid-19 are already making 2021 a challenging moment for health and well-being. When alcohol abuse is committed, be it due to fear or other factors, the danger one is in increases dramatically.
Once a person becomes addicted to alcohol, the safest way to go is to enter a drug and alcohol treatment center. Alcohol addiction programs provide recovering addicts with the tools they need not only to address the underlying problems that led them to alcohol in the first place, but such programs also give recovering addicts the tools they need to face life without Turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism.