How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Fueled Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol misuse in the United States has been a serious public health concern for many years. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing alcohol misuse and addiction rates to rise, further complicating public health needs and putting a higher number of Americans at risk.

Continue reading to learn more about how COVID-19 is fueling alcohol use and what you can do to reduce the risk of addiction.

Statistics: Alcohol Use and COVID-19

  • Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, women in the U.S. have increased the number of days they engage in heavy drinking by 41%, reports Harvard Health Publishing.
  • Alcohol sales increased by 54% from 2019 to the first few weeks of COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, according to research presented by Boston University.
  • Total alcohol consumption in the U.S. was up by 14% in September 2020 compared with September 2019.
  • In a survey of 5,850 Americans, 29% reported drinking higher amounts of alcohol during COVID-19, according to research presented by New York University. People with depression were 64% more likely to use more alcohol, while people with anxiety were 41% more likely.

Why Is COVID-19 Fueling Alcohol Use?

COVID-19 has changed the lives of millions of Americans in various ways, many of which are not entirely positive. Lockdowns, social distancing, loss of employment, fear of death and the unknown, isolation, boredom, closure of churches and businesses, reduced access to healthcare, and financial hardships are causing the recent rise in alcohol consumption, reports the National Institutes of Health. COVID-19 has also increased rates of stress, anxiety, and depression — all of which are linked to higher rates of substance misuse.

Alcohol is legal, easily attainable, and relatively affordable for many Americans. When used in moderation, alcohol produces pleasurable effects, including relaxation and euphoria (intense excitement and happiness), often making it easy to forget problems and put off important obligations. Alcohol also has the ability to reduce stress, anxiety, loneliness, and physical pain that have been plaguing many Americans since the start of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the effects of alcohol are only temporary, and problems remain after effects wear off. Additionally, alcohol misuse increases the risk of other health problems and comorbid disorders, including lowered immunity, obesity, and liver disease, putting people at greater risk for COVID-19.

How Can People Reduce Their Addiction Risk During COVID-19?

Stress is one of the top triggers associated with substance misuse, along with isolation and mental health disorders. People affected by one or more of these factors during COVID-19 can reduce their risk for addiction by managing these triggers or seeking professional help.

According to Wake Forest Baptist Health, a prominent academic health system in North Carolina, practicing healthy stress management techniques can reduce alcohol misuse triggered by stress. These techniques include exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, acknowledging and accepting negative emotions, and performing mentally stimulating activities such as reading a book or learning a new language. Maintaining connections with friends and family is also important, even if it means texting, talking on the phone, or having a digital video conference. People are also encouraged to stay connected with their churches or spiritual groups.

People who suffer from physical or mental illnesses should contact their healthcare providers for treatment, even if telemedicine is their only communication option. Fortunately, many healthcare providers around the U.S. have reopened their doors to patients who may need non-COVID-related health care in the form of cancer screenings, routine checkups, and more.

Other ways to reduce the risk for alcohol addiction during COVID-19 include consuming less alcohol during any one occasion and determining whether any medications being used should not be used with alcohol (such as benzodiazepines, which increase the risk for hospitalization).

How Can Alcohol Misuse Be Treated During COVID-19?

Alcohol misuse can be safely and effectively treated with alcohol detox and behavioral therapy in an addiction treatment program. Many alcohol rehab centers across the U.S. are open and accepting new patients and have COVID-19 safety measures in place.

Alcohol detox helps people withdraw from alcohol and overcome physical dependence while facing a reduced risk of potential complications, including seizures and dehydration. Patients are closely monitored by nurses and doctors as they go through detox and can spend their days recovering and relaxing in bed for the duration of treatment. Medications are often used to reduce withdrawal symptoms and make patients feel as comfortable as possible. Alcohol detox usually lasts for two to 10 days, according to the World Health Organization.

After completing alcohol detox, patients transition into an alcohol rehab program to receive behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy helps patients develop essential skills for managing triggers — including stress — that don’t involve alcohol use. Patients being significantly affected by changes brought about by COVID-19 may receive specialized therapy that addresses the root causes of their alcohol misuse. For example, if COVID-19 led to job loss, vocational and educational services may be provided to help patients get back on their feet from a career standpoint while also recovering from addiction.

If you started misusing alcohol due to experiencing hardships from COVID-19, Indiana Center for Recovery can guide you along the path to recovery. Contact us today to learn more about your available treatment options.

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