16 Jul The Dangers of Alcoholism During the Pandemic
For the past few months, COVID-19 has been the biggest concern across the globe. As it is highly transmissible, governments and states were forced to declare partial and full lockdowns, curfews, and other similar measures to curb its spread. This is in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) social distancing guidelines.
Arguably, the largest concern from the stay at home orders has been the economic implications. With people staying at home, businesses are running at limited capacity, if even in operation. This, in turn, has translated to lost jobs and incomes.
Whereas lost income is indeed a great concern, stay at home measures have also come with their own set of social challenges. These are boredom, anxiety, and stress, factors which are contributing to increased alcohol uptake. In a report released by Nielsen, the third week of March saw a 55% increase in off-premise alcohol.
Even during pandemic free times, harmful alcohol consumption is a significant concern. According to the WHO, consumption of alcohol is a factor in 3 million deaths annually and also contributes to 5.1% of the global disease burden.
In light of the present strenuous circumstances, increasing alcohol consumption is concerning as it could have devastating effects down the line. This article explores some of the dangers of alcoholism during the pandemic so that you can take the necessary steps to protect you and your loved ones.
1. Increased Risk of Infection
At present, there are over to 6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, and the disease has already claimed close to four hundred thousand lives. However, most of these fatalities are directly associated with people who have compromised immune systems such as the elderly or those with chronic diseases.
Though COVID-19 does not have a cure per se, one can recover from the disease, and a large proportion of people only display mild symptoms. Whether you fall in this category or not solely depends on the state of your immune system.
So, how does alcohol come in here? Alcohol is known to disrupt the immune system, which is comprised of various cells and proteins that help regulate your health. B- and T-cells play a crucial role in safeguarding your health as they destroy the DNA of invading cells. Excessive consumption of alcohol can reduce the number of these cells or turn the immune system against healthy body cells causing autoimmune disorders.
To put it simply, the more you drink, the higher the risk of infection. And, higher-than -moderate consumption of alcohol increases the risk of diseases such as HIV, cancer, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.
2. Makes it Easy to Relapse
In these uncertain times, it is only natural for people to worry. These concerns cover matters such as health and safety to how am I going to provide for my family if the epidemic stays longer. As such, feelings of frustration, vulnerability, and anxiety are normal and can be overwhelming. This is especially so for people with alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Popularly known as alcoholism, alcohol use disorder is a state in which someone is unable to control their drinking even when it becomes problematic. Such people also develop a dependence on alcohol such that a sudden halt in consumption causes withdrawal symptoms. Diagnosis for AUD is made over a 12-month period, highlighting how challenging it can be for such individuals to stop drinking.
For an AUD to successfully stop drinking, they must be fully committed to improving their quality of life and treating themselves with the respect that they deserve. During this period, support mechanisms are very crucial as they help keep one on the straight and narrow path. Such support mechanisms include organized programs for recovering alcoholics as well as family and friends.
For people on the path to sobriety, the feelings of anxiety and stress brought by COVID-19 could present a double challenge. Even worse, due to social distancing recommendations, support programs have been curtailed, leaving such individuals to cope with this challenge alone. As such, considering all factors, including increased alcohol consumption, recovering AUDs can easily relapse.
3. Can Trigger the Onset of Alcoholism
Unfortunately, it’s not only AUDs that face the risk of alcoholism. Alcohol is a psychoactive substance that can lead to alcohol dependence if consumed excessively. With people worried and locked up in their house, activities such as going to the gym or sports, which help relieve stress, are largely off the table.
In turn, as highlighted with the increased alcohol purchases, people are turning to drinks for relief and to pass time. This is a very dangerous habit as people can unknowingly fall into alcoholism during this pandemic.
4. Increased Risk of Injury
Alcohol consumption often leads to poor judgment and loss of control, which are key ingredients for instigating conflict or causing accidents. The evidence for this is clear from hospital emergency records since the pandemic began. According to Diana Egerton-Warburton, an emergency medicine physician, there has been a reduction in the total number of alcohol-related injuries. However, the number of severe harm injuries associated with alcohol consumption has spiked.
Such injuries attributed to excessive alcohol consumption also put police, paramedics, and physicians at risk. This is because the poor judgment and disinhibition that come when one is intoxicated make them uncontrollable even when it is in their best interest.
For instance, such patients often need a number of medical staff to restrain them before they can be sedated for treatment. As such, medics break social distancing rules, which then puts them at risk of contracting COVID-19.
How to Avoid Becoming Alcohol Dependent During Lockdown
Most of the people who drink excessively often say they can stop when they want to. However, before they know it, they become dependent. During this period, your habits will determine how much effect alcohol will have on your life.
Avoid the urge to start drinking early or eat every meal with a drink. Also, schedule two to three non-drinking days every week. Such habits will ensure you are in control of your consumption. Better yet, find ways to self-improve. This could be taking an online course or learning a new skill to keep yourself busy.
If you realize that you or any of your loved ones are turning to the bottle far more than recommended, it is best to seek help immediately. Center for Addiction Medicine offers addiction-related treatment. Reach out to us today to overcome addiction.
‘This is in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) social distancing guidelines.’ – https://www.who.int/
‘In a report released by Nielsen, the third week of March saw a 55% increase in off-premise alcohol.’ – https://www.forbes.com/sites/
‘However, most of these fatalities are directly associated with people who have compromised immune systems such as the elderly or those with chronic diseases.’ – https://www.cdc.gov/
‘Excessive consumption of alcohol can reduce the number of these cells or turn the immune system against health body cells causing autoimmune disorders.’- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
‘According to Diana Egerton-Warburton, an emergency medicine physician, there has been a reduction in the total number of alcohol-related injuries. However, the number of severe harm injuries associated with alcohol consumption has spiked.’ – https://www.theguardian.com/