The Connection Between COVID-19 and Alcohol Abuse

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There was absolutely no way to predict the madness that has ensued during the first half of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the world, possibly forever. This rapidly spread respiratory disease has completed interrupted businesses, schools, religious institutions, and the daily life of nearly every individual.

Trying to maintain mental and physical health is extremely difficult during this unprecedented time. Many people living on their own have returned home to be with their families, forcing old habits to reemerge. Motivation seems to be at an all-time low with people struggling to continue a daily routine or even put on clothes other than pajamas. With the future filled with so much uncertainty, it almost feels as if there is nothing to look forward to.

Alcohol and Coronavirus

There is one common theme that most people seem to have experienced: a lack of control. It seems as if everyone is at the mercy of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines, waiting for the world to return to some semblance of normalcy. Many people have turned to alcohol as a comfort, alcohol sales are up 55% in the third week of March this year compared to last year. The triple-threat of a global pandemic, its economic repercussions, and mandated stay-at-home orders appear to be the unfortunate perfect storm for heavy drinking.

For people attempting to overcome a substance abuse disorder, this pandemic presents a real challenge. Feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, depression, and loneliness are at an all-time high, leading people to seek comfort in substance abuse habits. For those who have already overcome addiction and are in the phase of recovery, the current conditions heighten the probability of a potential relapse. As people find themselves alone facing new challenges, it is very easy to use alcohol as a coping mechanism.

In addition, the CDC has advised Americans to abide by social distancing strategies, by staying home, staying 6 feet from others in public spaces, and congregating in groups no larger than 10 people. Without this social interaction, and being physically apart from a support system, it may decrease the motivation someone has to stay sober, feeling very vulnerable.

Heavy drinking could even heighten the risk of contracting COVID-19. According to Adam Leventhal, professor of Preventive Medicine and Psychology at the School of Medicine of USC “people who regularly smoke or use other substances can have impaired immune systems and lung functioning, which might increase risk of contracting COVID-19 and having worse outcomes from the virus.” This expert as USC goes on to explain that “historically, substance use has increased during regional disasters, like in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Today’s pandemic amplifies stress amid job loss, illness, fear, isolation — all of which contribute to substance use.

However, there is hope. Technology makes it very easy to stay in touch and connect with loved ones, even in the absence of physical togetherness. In addition, there are a ton of online support groups and communities that are trying to endure and overcome the same struggles. There are even virtual 12-step programs to engage with online. While the world may be isolating and scary, it is important to remember that millions of Americans also feel the same way. No matter how you may feel, you are not alone.

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