Overdoses were on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Isolation while things seemed so grim has caused many to use substances as a way to cope. Alcohol delivery apps and plenty of free time while locked in the house made it easy for others to misuse alcohol, ultimately developing addiction in quarantine. It is important to learn information about how alcohol use during the pandemic has been on the rise and what can be done about this issue.
Coping With Uncertainty
The rise in alcohol use during COVID became ubiquitous. As uncertain times pressed on continuously, people lost jobs, moved to at-home working and learning, had more stressful work environments, and dealt with loss, grief, and fear of the future. Many of those without resources turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Alcohol use became a distraction from both fear and boredom. Closed bars made it that much easier to drink at home, and the blurred lines between work hours and home hours made it easier to justify day drinking.
2020 and 2021 had record-breaking relapses and overdoses due to recovery resources that were more limited than before. Many treatment centers and rehabilitation clinics closed doors as they developed COVID-safe treatment plans and policies in the wake of the pandemic. In-person services were replaced with telehealth, and hugging was replaced with social distancing. EMS and other first responders were overworked and stretched thin, responding both to a rise in COVID-related deaths and overdose deaths.
Alcohol use on the rise is not a new phenomenon. There has been a recorded increase in alcohol use during natural or national disasters, such as during Hurricane Katrina and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This increase often correlates with rising stress levels, consuming a lot of negative media, and dealing with grief. In the particular case of the pandemic, the duration of the COVID-19 emergency has made it worse and much more dangerous.
Isolation Has Only Made It Worse
Being unable to physically seek support has made it hard for those in treatment and recovery. It has also become a challenge for people who have developed new mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression, as a result of the pandemic. They may be unaware of these unhealthy symptoms and are slower to seek help.
According to reports of an online survey, of the 832 responses, 60% reported an increase in drinking during the pandemic, while one-third or 34% reported binge drinking. The reason for increased drinking included reasons such as stress, boredom, and increased alcohol availability.
Substance Use and Its Affect on Your Health
While alcohol use can have adverse effects on mental health, it can also disrupt the immune system. During a global pandemic, this can spell disaster. As excessive alcohol use has been on the rise, doctors worry about individuals' immune systems and their ability to fight off the virus, if contracted.
Alcohol can disrupt the body's ability to fight off bacterial and viral infections. Additionally, excessive alcohol use can disturb one's respiratory function, which becomes even more dangerous in the wake of a virus that targets the lungs. These paired together can increase the risk of severe COVID symptoms on top of a higher risk of mortality.
Shown to Worsen Mental Health
While drinking alcohol might temporarily help with psychological effects and pain from mental health symptoms, drinking can actually worsen mental health in the short and long term. Drinking alcohol can also worsen anxiety and depression, as well as affect memory, and increase symptoms of insomnia.
Don’t Quit Drinking Cold Turkey
If an individual has developed alcohol use disorder because of the pandemic, they should not try to quit drinking on their own. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be deadly, and severe cases require medically-assisted detox. Those who quit despite drinking large amounts of alcohol can put themselves at risk for full-body tremors, seizures, and even death.
Coping With the Effects of the Pandemic Without Substance Use
Alcohol or substance misuse might feel like an easy way to deal with the effects of the pandemic. Although, because of the effects of alcohol and how easy it is to develop an addiction, it can become really destructive. Instead of using substances to cope with the emergency, it is better to find ways to deal with this disaster that work to improve mental health symptoms and stave off boredom.
Ways that can help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, especially when working at home include:
Having a regular schedule
Focusing on stress relief and mindfulness exercises
Reaching out to a support system
Investing in mental health
Paying attention to the foods that are consumed
Getting consistent sleep
Maintaining at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week