The Consequences of Alcohol Use During the Pandemic

October 8, 2020

Adult alcohol use has increased since the pandemic hit the United States. Feeling like life is out of control may be an understatement, but may be the reason that Americans are turning to intoxicating beverages as an unhealthy alternative to therapy.

The year 2020 has presented simultaneous challenges that many of us weren’t prepared for. Life as we know it has turned into the likes of a binge-worthy series in which we all get to play a character that doesn’t know what’s going to happen next.

The plots of a global pandemic, a request to quarantine by our elected officials, homeschooling, unemployment, economic protests to reopen America, global social protests to end police brutality, and one of the most polarized election years in modern American history have kept many of us on the edge of our seats, but not in a good way.

Being inside of multiple plot twists of uncertainty may not only be disconcerting, but can lead to anxiety, stress, and feelings of helplessness.

At American Addiction Centers, a nationwide leader in addiction treatment, we not only treat alcohol addiction, but we also treat co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety and depression as well. If you or a loved one has relapsed or is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, reach out for the help you need during this difficult time.

Alcohol Use Before and During the Pandemic

Online sales of alcohol increased 262% from 2019 to 2020. There was a 54% increase in national alcohol sales alone in the week ending on March 21st compared to one year prior. According to a poll conducted in April involving 2,200 U.S. adults, 16% of adults admitted to drinking more since the pandemic started.

So what is excessive drinking? And is it really harming people? Perhaps more than you think. Excessive, or heavy drinking, is considered 3 or more drinks for women in one day and 4 or more alcoholic beverages for men per day, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Excessive drinking may cause:
  • Breast cancer.
  • Atrial fibrillation.Alcohol abuse in America
  • Depression.
  • Liver disease.
  • Heart attack.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Obesity.
  • Stroke.
  • Suicide.
According to Dr. Mariann Piano, a Vanderbilt University professor of nursing and a senior associate dean for research, individuals who are alcohol-dependent have compromised immune systems. This decreases the human body’s ability to fight contagious diseases like COVID-19. The more alcohol consumed, the lower your immune system, and the higher the risk to catch the virus.

Dr. Adriane de la Cruz is a psychiatrist  who specializes in drug and alcohol addiction. She states that, in general, many people turn to alcohol in an attempt to relieve stress. However, this particular pandemic has caused people’s anxiety levels to rise. And with all of the uncertainty and questions surrounding the virus, alcohol seems to quiet the mind. Not to mention, it may serve as a numbing agent due to the isolation and loneliness that a COVID world has created by requiring people to not only stay at home, work from home, avoid crowds and public places, and to not co-mingle households with friends and relatives.

Alternatives to Drinking Alcohol

 As much as people find alcohol to be an immediate, although a temporary and unhealthy, solution to an ongoing problem, there are other options that can help you get through each day of uncertainty within the days of COVID-19.

Healthy options to approaching the pandemic:
  • Meditation.
  • Yoga.
  • Deep breathing techniques.
  • Walking outdoors.
  • Reading.
  • Remaining physical.
  • Eating healthy.
  • Getting plenty of sleep.
  • Video chatting with family/friends.

The pandemic that spearheaded a trail of other challenges and obstacles throughout 2020 doesn’t have to control our reactions to life’s current circumstances. And although this is easier said than done, pull on the support of loved ones to get through this time. Support each other.

Some may have relapsed. Others may have been in a battle with alcoholism for years. Just know, you’re not alone. Although social distancing and being in quarantine may make you feel isolated, there are people who understand and want to be there for you. If you’re struggling with an alcohol use disorder, please reach out for the help you need today!

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