While some common household products such as toilet paper and eggs have been a struggle to find in stores during COVID, there has been no shortage of alcohol. Liquor stores, which are considered an essential service, have been busier than ever, with bars and restaurants having been temporarily closed. However, despite the lack of social gatherings and outings to bars, people are still getting their alcohol fix, many even increasing their alcohol consumption since the start of the pandemic. Overall, in the United States, frequency of drinking has increased by 14% since last year. People are not only drinking more often, they are drinking more heavily. Surveys have shown that since March, Americans have been buying larger quantities of cheaper alcohol; there has also been an increase in cannabis usage, as well as anti-anxiety medication like Xanax and Aderrall. It is an especially difficult time for those who are trying to quit drinking, and those who are recovering from a substance use disorder, as they are more vulnerable to relapse during this time.
Reasons for the increase
Lack of a consistent routine
With many being unemployed, or working from home during the pandemic, alcohol is no longer reserved for weekends or after work, because weekdays and weekends blur together. You may find that you don’t have a certain time you need to wake up, or a time to be finished working, so there seems to be no reason not to indulge in a drink.
You may be thinking that a mundane at-home activity will be more interesting if you had a glass of wine while you do it. While it may seem harmless at first, this is a dangerous habit to get into and can lead to excessive drinking.
The uncertainty of the future, and when things will go back to normal can naturally spark the feeling of stress and anxiety. Many use alcohol as a means of coping with the financial stresses, relationship stresses, and other anxieties that are now heightened by the pandemic.
Being stuck at home, with very little social interaction can take a toll on us as humans, and drinking can be used as an attempt to fill the void that can only be filled by relationship and community with others.
How much is too much?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men as being moderate drinking. It is important to realize, especially in the midst of a global pandemic, that heavy drinking lowers the immune system, which could make you more susceptible to contracting the virus, and may leave you with a more severe respiratory problem.
What you can do instead of drinking
- Try developing a new hobby, perhaps something you have been wanting to try for a while, but never had the time for
- Take care of your body by eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and staying active
- Spend time outdoors
- Connect with friends and family - the most common way people heal is through social interaction.
- Contact a professional who can help you on your road to recovery
Remember that alcohol is not an effective coping mechanism, and while your intention may be to reduce feelings of stress and loneliness, alcohol is actually known to enhance these very feelings that you are trying to escape, and can end up worsening your situation over time. We encourage you to get help with whatever it is that causes you to drink.
Concerned that you or your loved one may be struggling with substance use? Contact us to speak with an unbiased addiction treatment specialist for a no-commitment consultation. There is no shame in reaching out to ask for help or to talk about what some options are to quit or cut back on your drinking. It could be the most important call you’ll ever make.