Thumbnail view of the effects of COVID-19 on alcohol abuse

COVID-19 induced alcohol abuse

The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in the death of many people, deteriorated physical health, and changed mental health. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, fear, anxiety and depression have increased. Given that people are losing their jobs, adjusting to public health recoveries to keep everyone safe, there are frequent reports of people dying on the news and worrying, it is no surprise that the psychological Health is a challenge. The relationship between alcohol abuse and feelings of isolation, stress and depression has always been linked.

Alcohol consumption figures are increasing

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 drove alcoholism up and highlighted the link between stressful situations and alcohol. Since alcohol is currently a highly dangerous and heavily abused drug, people may think they have an excuse to drink in order to deal with it. Additionally, the quarantine during the COVID-19 outbreak may have increased the percentage of those who drank alcohol.

Although many stores have closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, liquor stores have also been allowed to stay open. It could be said that the availability of liquor stores and the ongoing stress of COVID-19 have increased alcohol consumption. In one case study, a countrywide increase in alcohol sales of 54% was reported in the first week of COVID-19 in March 2020. In addition, online alcohol sales rose “by 262% compared to the previous year”.

Factors Contributing to COVID-19 Induced Alcohol Consumption

Stress and spending more time at home can be responsible for drinking. Little to do at home and enforced restrictions on public spaces have created boredom, frustration and the temptation to drink. For others, the depression and anxiety about job loss and the rise in deaths from COVID-19, as well as conflict at home and at work, have contributed to an increase in alcoholism. These numbers show the ideology that alcohol helps with anxiety or depression; However, many do not realize that the more they drink, the more they risk developing an alcohol use disorder. For example, some drink every morning because they are at home and alcohol is readily available and they may not realize that they are at risk of developing tolerance. If left in isolation, those who drink will not be held accountable and may drink too much.

Tolerance occurs when someone gets used to a certain amount of alcohol and needs more to feel a buzz. A shot or two of spirits that once created a buzz may have a weaker effect. In return, the person may need more shots or a stronger mind to feel something. In addition to developing alcohol tolerances, drinking can affect the immune system by making chronic health problems worse. According to Yale Medicine, constant drinking can undermine the lining of the gut and “cause bacteria to invade the body.” Inflammation can occur, making someone more prone to infection.

Finally, depending on the medication used, if someone abuses medication and chooses to drink it regularly, he or she may prevent certain medications from working properly or increase the risk of an overdose. Fortunately, finding ways to manage stress such as reading, exercising, connecting with loved ones, and meditation can serve as healthy coping mechanisms.

Risk factors for COVID-19 induced alcoholism

People are most at risk of alcohol abuse if they:

  • Have a history of substance abuse.
  • Drink alcohol regularly.
  • Have an alcohol addiction.
  • Have depression or other mental illnesses.
  • Are sensitive to stressful times and circumstances.
  • Are an essential worker.

Drinking too much alcohol can alter how the brain functions and changes chemistry. Unfortunately, someone who drinks too much can experience alcohol withdrawal and have difficulty reducing or stopping it without experiencing extremely difficult side effects. Withdrawal side effects such as anxiety, depression, nausea, and sweating can make everyday life difficult; many will continue to drink to feel normal. Support from loved ones and family members and monitoring problematic alcohol use such as 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more for men within 2 hours (binge drinking) can encourage healthy drinking conversations. If you or a loved one has drunk frequently or increased their alcohol consumption, contact a treatment provider for treatment options without risk.

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