Author: John Carter

Drinking Alcohol with COVID-19: Tips for Use, Safety, Risks

drinking alcohol with covid

Another approach that psychologists can teach is urge surfing, in which people ride out the urge to drink by focusing on their breathing, Witkiewitz says. The breathing practice provides a pause, allowing the patient to consider what they might want in that moment instead of alcohol, whether it’s personal connection with someone else, sleep, or relief from boredom, she says. Challenges persist amid a pandemic culture rife with references to Zoom happy hours, quarantinis, and in which some states have relaxed restrictions allowing for curbside pickup of liquor and cocktails-to-go from restaurants. Meanwhile, some of the traditional outlets to distract and relieve stress are less available, including spending time with friends and heading to the gym. At the same time, there are some evidence that shows little changes in consumption patterns at the community level or even a decrease in overall alcohol use.

For example, women with depressive disorders are more prone to excessive alcohol consumption by internalizing symptoms, a situation favored by social isolation. Alcohol consumed for long time acts as a stressor on the body and makes it difficult to maintain homeostasis [28,29]. The immediate benefit of alcohol consumption can mask the long-term harmful effect [30,31].

  1. Considering the scale of its consequences and the huge stress-related burden, COVID-19 pandemic can be considered as a mass trauma, which can lead to psychological problems, health behavior changes, and addictive issues, including alcohol consumption [16,17].
  2. The percentage of people reporting binge drinking—more than four drinks in two hours for men and three for women—increased from 22% in February to 27% in April, according to North Carolina-based Research Triangle Institute International, which surveyed 993 people, including 555 who reported drinking in February.
  3. It will also explain how alcohol consumption affects mental health and discuss some ways to treat the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  4. Consult a healthcare professional about whether you can drink alcohol while using these medications.
  5. The interconnection between alcohol dependence and depression is based on a circular etiopathogenic process, the two diseases worsening each other.

There is no medical basis to support this fact, on the contrary, alcohol abuse weakens the body’s protection against viral respiratory infections [78]. In Eastern Europe, a research project implemented in Poland has shown an increase in alcohol consumption in 146%, with a higher tendency to drink more found among the subjects with previous alcohol addiction [42]. The pandemic’s uncertainty and stress, combined with disrupted routines, may have encouraged some people to progress into heavier drinking habits, along with undercutting efforts to remain sober, though it’s still too soon for much peer-reviewed data, psychologists say. The main effects of increasing alcohol consumption on health during Covid-19 pandemic. 1 we summarized the most important effects of increasing alcohol consumption on health during COVID-19 pandemic.

If your bone marrow is suppressed, then you are not going to have as many functioning white blood cells,” he explains. Another important factor is malnutrition secondary to excessive alcohol intake [62]. The harmful effect on the mucosa of the digestive tract consists in decreasing the absorption and metabolism of certain nutrients, including B vitamins (B1, B6 and B9 or folic acid), leading to a slowing of leukocyte proliferation and differentiation [63].

How concerned should we be about people drinking to deal with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic?

People who develop a severe illness from COVID-19 are at risk of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This occurs when fluid fills up air sacs in the lungs, affecting oxygen supply to the body. Perhaps most worrisome, studies show that chronic high alcohol consumption can significantly increase the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a potentially fatal respiratory condition in which fluid accumulates in the lungs. NIAAA provides an online treatment navigator tool designed for people seeking help, including medication options, Kwako says. Psychologists can teach numerous techniques via telehealth, from mindfulness-based stress prevention to cognitive behavioral therapy, tailoring the approach to each patient’s circumstances and home environment, she says. They also can incorporate motivational enhancement therapy to help patients create a practical plan to change their drinking behavior, think through potential barriers in advance, and develop drink refusal skills.

drinking alcohol with covid

Settle on what level of social distancing you are comfortable with, and pre-plan ways to maintain it, he says. Above all, Witkiewitz suggests that psychologists grant themselves and their patients some grace at a time when the structure and rhythm of everyone’s lives have been upended. Psychologists can use a number of brief screening tools, such as the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, to gain a quick snapshot of a patient’s consumption, says Adam Leventhal, PhD, an addiction psychologist who directs the University of Southern California Institute for Addiction Science in Los Angeles. Another approach is to ask individuals who drink to start logging when they consume and how much, so they are realistic about their own patterns, he says.

Other interesting examples may be the decrease of alcohol consumption in college students, after the campus closure, the main explanation being that they got back home, to live with their families, with less social events and binge drinking [46,47]. To cope, many people turned to alcohol despite the risk of developing alcohol-related problems, including problem drinking and alcohol use disorder (AUD). This article will discuss the myths and facts about alcohol use and COVID-19. It will also explain how alcohol consumption affects mental health and discuss some ways to treat the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Potential stressors that can foster more reliance on alcohol are nearly ubiquitous these days—from financial insecurity to juggling work and childcare from home to protests and racial unrest.

I want to get healthier

In Europe, evidence showing an increased alcohol consumption, emerged during the second half of 2020 and early 2021. So researchers were understandably apprehensive when, early in the pandemic, alcohol sales spiked. They were especially concerned about women, because similar quantities of alcohol affect them more adversely than men, making them more likely to suffer injuries from accidents and to develop chronic illnesses like liver and heart disease and cancer.

drinking alcohol with covid

Excessive alcohol use can lead to or worsen existing mental health problems. Drinking alcohol does not reduce the chance of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 or developing severe illness from COVID-19. Anecdotally, some people with long COVID develop an alcohol intolerance. While one preprint study suggests that alcohol intolerance is a common symptom of long COVID, there’s very little research on the topic.

Alcohol misuse is already a public health concern in the United States, and alcohol has the potential to further complicate the COVID-19 pandemic in multiple ways. Below are links to important resources for the public, clinicians, and researchers from NIAAA. The effects of the pandemic on alcohol-related problems have not been the same for everyone, though. One example is an NIAAA-supported study showing that fewer college students had AUD symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many people pick up a drink as a way to relieve stress and don’t realize that those initial, relaxing effects are short-lived and that alcohol actually stimulates the body’s stress response, says Sinha. Specific to the immune system, alcohol can also cause bone marrow suppression, Dr. Fiellin says. “We get many of our cells—including white blood cells, which help defend against disease—from bone marrow.

State-by-state alcohol-related COVID-19 policies (PDF, 1.6MB)

For example, getting regular exercise and practicing stress reduction techniques can help reduce symptoms. It is also important to prevent feelings of isolation by reaching out to friends and family when possible. Although some people turn to alcohol, there are many other ways of coping with feelings of depression and anxiety. It can also increase the risk of certain infectious diseases, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Multiple small studies suggest that during the pandemic, about 25% of people drank more than usual, often to cope with stress. We spoke with George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), to learn about the pandemic’s effects on alcohol use and related harms. Koob is an expert on the biology of alcohol and drug addiction and has been studying the impact of alcohol on the brain for more than 50 years.

COVID-19 pandemic and alcohol consumption: Impacts and interconnections

Initially, social distancing, along with increasing population testing, are the only effective measures to control the pandemic but with several consequences on long-term [[12], [13], [14]]. Public health measures include non-pharmacological interventions that can be used to reduce and delay community transmission [4]. The goal is to slow down the pace of new cases and reduce the peak of cases in the community, as well as the burden on health systems. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have issued communications warning people to avoid excessive drinking, saying it may increase COVID-19 susceptibility and severity.

In Australia, lower levels of alcohol were detected in wastewater during the quarantine, comparing with the similar periods of the previous years, suggesting a reduction in drinking among the general population, possibly as a result of missing social events and changes in overall drinking patterns [46]. While hand sanitizers containing 60-95% ethyl alcohol can help destroy the coronavirus on surfaces, drinking alcohol offers no protection from the virus. It was really no surprise that during the first year of the pandemic, alcohol sales jumped by nearly 3%, the largest increase in more than 50 years.