It’s hard to believe that aspects of the coronavirus pandemic are still affecting us. But new variants and, at press time, a continual rise in cases means that many people still feel the stress and strain of this global health crisis. Another unfortunate side effect of the pandemic is a rise in drinking.
High Drinking Rates Due to the Pandemic
Earlier in 2021, numerous studies reported a drastic increase in drug overdoses. In our region, the uptick from 2019 to 2020 ranged from 19–37 percent across 5 states—based on only 6 months of data, as the latter half of 2020 wasn’t assessed yet. Preliminary data for June 2020 to May 2021 hints at an equally grim picture.
The repercussions of the pandemic affected every aspect of care, from tending to basic living needs and seeking professional mental health and addiction treatment to reduced medical services prohibiting proper attention to more grave health issues. Until the pandemic is fully controlled, these issues will likely continue as people turn to unhealthy behaviors to cope with the uncertainty, stress, and grief of this crisis.
In September 2020, the Rand Corporation published study results regarding pandemic drinking, which we’re sharing verbatim:
- An overall frequency of alcohol consumption increased by 14 percent among adults over age 30, compared to the same time the previous year.
- Increase was 19 percent among all adults aged 30 to 59, 17 percent among women, and 10 percent among non-Hispanic white adults.
What’s even more troubling, according to the study, is that women “increased their heavy drinking episodes (four or more drinks within a couple of hours) by 41 percent.” Additional studies reported in 2019 that women were already at high risk for alcohol use disorder and alcohol-related deaths.
In a research letter to the JAMA Network Open, lead study author Michael S. Pollard said, “We’ve had anecdotal information about people buying and consuming more alcohol, but this is some of the first survey-based information that shows how much alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic.” He added, “Alcohol consumption can have significant negative health consequences, so this information suggests another way that the pandemic may be affecting the physical and mental health of Americans.”
Additionally, a survey issued by the American Psychological Association (APA) reveals that in addition to weight gain, sleeplessness, and mental health issues, 23 percent of Americans indicated another side effect of the pandemic was that they were drinking more—especially those who are parents of elementary-school-age children.
Is Pandemic Stress Affecting You?
Even if you’ve never been sick with coronavirus, all your friends and family are healthy, and you didn’t suffer in the economic downturn, you’re still impacted by the prevailing undercurrent of pandemic stress.
- Am I exercising 4–6 days a week to naturally boost “feel good” chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin?
- Do I have a support network of people I can talk with when I feel overwhelmed or uncertain?
- Am I trying to eat as healthily as possible to make sure I have the right vitamins and minerals to combat stress?
- Are there other stress-relievers, such as spiritual rituals, volunteerism, mindfulness and meditation, journaling, and other methods I haven’t tried that might help?
If you suspect that drinking is really the only way that you’re trying to deal with everything, the APA suggests that you:
- Be more mindful of when and why you’re drinking. Are you bored? Stressed? Is it late at night? Are you tired? Identifying the trigger to the behavior makes it easier to choose a more healthy alternative, such as a cup of herbal tea or a 20-minute walk outdoors.
- Take note of how you feel the day after drinking. If you feel worse the next day, it’s time to talk to a professional about more progressive alternatives for managing stress.
- Make a plan of accountability. Keep a journal of how much you drink each day for a period of two weeks, including cycles of binge drinking (four or more drinks for women, or five or more drinks for men, in about two hours). Ask a friend to help you stay on track on the days when you like to limit or avoid drinking.
It might also be necessary to take a closer look at your drinking habits and what signs indicate you have a problem. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism lists these symptoms of alcohol use disorder. If you identify with four or more of the criteria, it’s time for professional assistance.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Willingway
Choosing to seek help is something you can do to take back control of your health and well-being, regardless of external forces. Willingway provides addiction treatment and co-occurring condition treatment in Statesboro, GA. Our staff has taken every precaution recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to protect residents and their families during the coronavirus pandemic, and we continue to follow CDC best practices. If you believe drinking is impacting your life in negative ways, there’s no reason to wait for individual, evidence-based treatment. Talk to a member of our admissions team today to learn how we can help you.