Since the onset of COVID, alcohol abuse is on the rise. is no doubt that we are living through unprecedented times. When the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year, we had no idea the impact it would have on our lives, let alone to what extent and for how long. As millions of people lost their jobs, security, and even loved ones, many turned to alcohol to numb the feeling of loss, boredom, or anxiety – and there’s alarming data to prove it.
While having a drink here and there poses no serious risk, this year’s alcohol sales have exposed just how much alcohol Americans have been drinking to cope. Compared to the same time last year, Nielsen reported a 54% increase in in-store alcohol sales in late March, while online alcohol sales increased 500% by late April as stay-at-home and quarantine orders were in full effect.
The concern around excess drinking goes beyond a probable increase in alcohol dependency amongst Americans during the pandemic.
Excessive alcohol consumption compromises the immune system, causing inflammation and the body’s inability to fight off infectious diseases. Alcohol misuse is especially harmful during this time as it damages the epithelial cells that line the lung surface, which is associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Alcohol can also harmfully interact with prescription drugs, poor sleep habits, and dehydration. It affects brain functions such as memory, balance and rational thinking, which is imperative to keeping one’s self and others safe. All of these things lead to a greater risk of catching coronavirus and diminish the body’s ability to successfully fight it off. By causing an impaired immune system and increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, excessive drinking is only fueling the spread of COVID-19.
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For women, the risk of developing alcohol dependency and compromising the body’s immune system is much greater.
In a survey conducted by sociologist Michael S. Pollard, Ph.D., and colleagues, it was found that overall alcohol consumption had increased by 14% from 2019 to 2020. For women alone, alcohol consumption increased by 17% within the year. Even more worrisome is heavy drinking among women increased by a whopping 41% since the pandemic hit.
Nearly one in 10 women who had participated in the survey, regardless of how much alcohol they consumed, reported an increase in alcohol-related problems – proving health officials’ concerns about the duality of increased alcohol abuse during the COVID pandemic.
“Our study shows that people drank more frequently, and for women in particular, more heavily, and with more negative consequences, during the initial stages of COVID-19 compared to their own behaviors from a year earlier,” Pollard said.
Although alcohol may just be a way to pass the time during quarantine, many people may be unaware of the long-lasting effects.
Alcohol can temporarily inhibit the body’s response to stress, causing feelings of anxiety and stress to return and even worsen as the alcohol wears off. Over time, excessive drinking can intensify the brain’s response to stress. So, while consuming alcohol may seem like an easy way to cope with the stress and anxiety a pandemic brings, it can exacerbate these feelings, which could cause one to drink more.
Many memes celebrate alcohol abuse during COVID quarantine.
On social media, one of the few forms of social interaction we have these days, alcohol consumption has become the butt of the joke when it comes to coping with the pandemic.
“This cultural idea that alcohol is a good way to deal with problems is disheartening,” Dr. Mariann Piano told heart.org “If it’s one drink, it’s totally fine. But I’m worried when drinking becomes the routine, go-to solution.”
It’s important to regularly practice coping strategies that do not involve alcohol. Exercising, reading, cooking, and meditation are all great ways to keep yourself healthy and your mind off the pandemic.
Access to Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Recovery Meetings
As many of us are forced to work from home and self-isolate, we are vulnerable to succumbing to feelings of loneliness and boredom, which often trigger excessive alcohol consumption. For those who struggled with alcohol abuse long before the COVID pandemic, this is especially true. However, it is important to note that treatment and recovery are possible during these difficult times.
While treatment and recovery centers are not conducting in-person programs, many of them now offer virtual programming that people can attend via video chats. Alcoholics Anonymous has compiled a free directory of online meetings worldwide that include video conferences and email or chat groups in various languages that are available 24/7.
For those looking for a more individualized approach, Ventura Recovery Center is now offering individual and group-based online addiction treatment. Get personalized, one-on-one therapy and counseling sessions in addition to group therapy sessions to receive community support.
Learn more about our online addiction treatment and who we are on our website.