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Pandemic Drinking

Are People Drinking More During the Pandemic?

American Drinking Statistics. Alcohol Use Disorder. Drinking During the Pandemic.


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Drinking During the Pandemic

Alcohol policy experts have identified two ways that COVID-19 might impact alcohol consumption causing pandemic drinking:

  1. Alcohol use and related harms may increase due to stress triggered by “financial difficulties, social isolation, and uncertainty about the future”; or
  2. Alcohol use and related harms may decrease due to restrictions on the “physical and financial availability (i.e., affordability)” of alcohol

Consequently, alcohol use disorder in the U.S. appears to have worsened since the onset of COVID-19.  The recent COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything most living people have ever seen. Limited resources and stay-at-home orders have brought all-new challenges to everyday life. For those who are trying to maintain sobriety, the changes are greater and more bountiful.

Pandemics such as COVID-19 can cause many medical, psychological, and sociological problems, including increased alcohol consumption and related harms from such consumption. Alcohol is a harmful substance, and is, in fact, currently the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Excessive drinking has also been associated with increased violence, crime, poverty, sexually transmitted diseases, and other significant public health harms. [1]

Pandemic Drinking
Several studies have suggested Americans are buying more alcohol and drinking more frequently during the pandemic.

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Are People Drinking More During the Pandemic?

During the seven weeks between March 1 and April 18, 2020, there were significant increases in alcohol sales in the U.S. Data.  The week ending March 21 indicated that alcohol sales for off-premise locations (e.g., liquor stores) had increased by 54%.  In addition, online alcohol sales had risen by 262% compared to sales data from the same week in 2019.

Although the increases in alcohol sales did not remain at these levels, comprehensive data for that period showed that in-store purchases were up by 21% and online alcohol sales by 234% compared to 2019.  However, it is unclear whether individuals had been increasing their alcohol consumption or only stockpiling alcoholic beverages.  [2]

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every family across the country and will likely have a long-lasting impact on public health and well-being. Alcohol misuse is already a public health concern in the United States, with dramatic increases in emergency department visits and alcohol-related deaths observed in recent years. Alcohol has the potential to further complicate the COVID-19 pandemic in multiple ways.

Pandemic Drinking
People who misuse alcohol have a greater risk of liver disease, heart disease, depression, stroke, and stomach bleeding, as well as multiple cancers.

First, we must consider the effects of pandemic drinking on the immune system. Alcohol misuse both activates the immune system, causing inflammation, and interferes with the body’s immune response to viral and bacterial infections. In the lungs, excessive alcohol damages epithelial cells that line the lung surface and is associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome. Ultimately, impaired immune system function and increased susceptibility to respiratory illness could contribute to more severe COVID-19 and a greater risk of mortality. [3]

Excessive alcohol consumption may not only influence COVID-19 susceptibility and severity, but the broad effects of the pandemic are also likely to lead to excessive alcohol consumption.

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American Drinking Statistics

  • In 2019, of the 85,688 liver disease deaths among individuals ages 12 and older, 43.1% involved alcohol. Among males, 53,486 liver disease deaths occurred, and 45.6% involved alcohol. Among females, 32,202 liver disease deaths occurred, and 39.0% involved alcohol.
  • Among all cirrhosis deaths in 2015, 49.5% were alcohol-related. The proportion of alcohol-related cirrhosis deaths was highest (76.8%) among people ages 25 to 34, followed by people ages 35 to 44, at 72.7%.
  • Alcohol is a factor in the deaths of thousands of people younger than age 21 in the United States each year. This includes:
    • 1,092 from motor vehicle crashes
    • 1,000 from homicides
    • 208 from alcohol overdose, falls, burns, and drowning
    • 596 from suicides [4]
  • In 2020, a total of 2042 death certificates listed alcohol and COVID-19 as causes (1475 listed COVID-19 as the underlying cause, and 323 listed alcohol as the underlying cause). [5]
Pandemic Drinking
 Any level of alcohol consumption can negatively impact your personal or work life, your own health, or the health of others.

How to Cope Without Alcohol

In order to succeed and stay sober during the pandemic, you need to be dedicated, determined, skilled and have the necessary tools. Here are the 10 tips [6] to cope without alcohol and end the pandemic drinking.

1. Slow & Steady Wins the Race

Pretty much everyone is trying to adjust to a new pace. Just remember that adjustment takes time. Take it easy and as a society, we will get through this together.

2. Making Up For Lost Time With Family & Friends

Social distancing does not mean that you cannot connect with your friends and family. Healing damaged relationships means reaching out to the ones you love. Although you may not be able to go to their house, you can still connect. Make a phone call, Facetime, or mail a handwritten letter. These actions can go a long way to showing you care and that you are putting forward the best effort possible. Your loved ones will be happy to hear about your sobriety and to support you, even if from afar.

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3. Following A Daily Routine

Routine is not just a part of sobriety, but it is a part of maintaining an overall healthy life. Creating a healthy routine is particularly difficult when the whole world is disrupted. Start by setting an alarm and still getting up at the same time every day. Sleeping in sounds nice, but a poor sleep pattern can promote physical and mental health issues. Create a workspace and accomplish set tasks every day. Create times for business and times for play. Make walks or running a part of your routine so that you get fresh air and regular exercise.

4. Relax, But Don’t Over Relax

Creating time to sit back and relax is always important. If you are considered an essential worker and must travel for work, then finding time to relax may be difficult. The combined stress of staying sober and a pandemic can take a toll on an individual, and being out in public more often creates an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

Relaxing a little each day or even taking a minute here and there for deep breathing exercises can go a long way in reducing stress. Reducing stress means creating space for a clear mind and a sober life. On the other end, if you are out of work or working remotely, free time may be in an abundance. Do not abuse this and end up relaxing to the point that you don’t get anything done.

5. Find A New Job Or Activity

Despite rising unemployment and stay-at-home orders, there is no shortage of activities to keep us all busy. If you absolutely need to work, businesses like grocery stores and delivery companies are hiring across the country. If you are not looking for a job, but you need something to fill up your spare time, there are countless sobers activities to consider. Take a look at We Level Up 35 Sober Activities To Do While You Hunker Down During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

6. Stay In Touch With Your Support System

Social isolation is only referring to physical isolation, and in no way limits phone calls, video chatting, and emails. If your local support group meeting (such as a 12 steps meeting) hasn’t yet, encourage them to switch to group video chat sessions so that you can keep that routine we talked about!

7. Eat A Health – Balances Diet

A well-balanced diet can help improve your appearance, energy levels, immunity, and overall state of your health. If you are worried about going out to buy groceries and exposing yourself, consider a delivery service such as Instacart, or Prime Now. You can get all of the fruits and vegetables delivered right to your door so that you can keep your nutrition on track as a means of supporting a sober lifestyle.

Pandemic Drinking
New data shows that during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption increased sharply among American adults, especially women.

8. Sleep An Appropriate Amount

Everyone may require a slightly different amount of sleep, but getting between 7-9 hours every night is relatively standard. Encourage your body to go to sleep at a reasonable time every night by laying down and resting at least 30 minutes before you want to be asleep. End the night with some lavender essential oils or a cup of camomile tea. Try not to watch tv in your bed as this may confuse your body. Set alarms and wake up at the same time every morning as a part of your routine. Sleeping in is nice, but if your body falls too far out of a routine it can affect your mental and physical health.

9. Make Self-Care A Priority

Hygiene and self-care tend to become less of a priority when addiction takes over. If you aren’t interacting with people during this pandemic, it can be easy to continue overlooking daily showers or fresh clothes every day. However, practicing proper self-care is an important part of recovery and overall wellness.

10. Set New Goals

The goals you may have set for your sobriety may not be reasonable during this pandemic. For instance, making it to work every day is not possible if you were laid off due to the COVID outbreak. Simple adjustments can be made to make your goals reasonable and achievable.

We understand that this time is difficult for everyone, but especially for those who are fighting a disease like addiction. Just know that you are not alone and that maintaining your sobriety is possible. Re-adjust your routine and make the most of your situation. Stay positive and stay sober!

Concerned About Alcohol Abuse?

Sometimes people may struggle with their pandemic drinking. Below are some questions to ask yourself or your loved ones to see if you or they might benefit from more support around alcohol use.

In the past year, have you:

  1. Had times when you ended up drinking more or longer than you intended?
  2. Wanted to cut down or stop drinking on several occasions, or tried to, but could not?
  3. Spent a lot of time drinking, being sick, or getting over hangovers?
  4. Experienced cravings — a strong need or urge to drink?
  5. Found that drinking or being sick from drinking often interfered with taking care of your home or family, caused job troubles, or school problems?
  6. Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  7. Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  8. Gotten into situations, while or shortly after drinking, that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, or walking in a dangerous area) more than once?
  9. Continued to drink even though it made you feel depressed, anxious, or added to another health problem? Or after having a memory blackout?
  10. Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want, or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  11. Found that, when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea or sweating, or sensed things that were not there?

If you answered yes to one or more questions, you may benefit from additional support for alcohol use.

The stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may negatively affect your relationship with alcohol. You may even notice a worsening of existing challenges with alcohol use. In addition, it may be more alarming for anyone dealing with the effects of the pandemic in multiple parts of their life or who may have already been navigating major stressors before the pandemic.

It is OK to seek support for pandemic drinking. Being mindful of your relationship with alcohol can help you decide the safest way to drink. If you think drinking alcohol negatively affects your life, talk to someone you trust, such as a close friend, family member, mental health professional, or medical provider.

Alcohol-related deaths have surged in recent years. We need to focus on excessive drinking.

If you are going to be self-isolating, why not do it in a place where your sobriety will be supported and there is also quick access to medical professionals. Accredited detox and rehab facilities might actually be the safest place for someone with a substance use disorder right now. The facilities are cleaned and sanitized regularly and clients are closely monitored so any symptoms would be caught early. 

If you decide to know how to stop drinking alcohol and have consumed it heavily for a long time, you may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include nausea, sweating, tremors, anxiety, restlessness, hallucinations, seizures, and death. You may contact We Level Up addiction rehab center before you stop alcohol use to figure out if you need medical supervision.

Sources

[1] Alcohol Consumption during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional Survey of US Adults – National Center for Biotechnology Information
[2] Alcohol Consumption during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional Survey of US Adults – National Center for Biotechnology Information
[3] Alcohol poses different challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
[4] Alcohol Use in the United States – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
[5] Alcohol-Related Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic – https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2790491#:~:text=During%202020%2C%20a%20total%20of,deaths%20involved%20COVID%2D19%20directly.
[6] 10 Tips for Staying Sober: The Pandemic Edition – Level Up Lake Worth, FL

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