With 1 in 12 Americans dealing with alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the U.S. Founded in 1987 by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), Alcohol Awareness Month (April) highlights the stigma of alcohol addiction.

Now that the world is suffering from the coronavirus epidemic, alcohol sales have risen since people are in quarantine and can’t go to bars and restaurants. In these times of uncertainty and unpredictability, alcohol awareness is more important today than ever before. Learn more about Alcohol Awareness Month in 2020, and how you can maintain recovery during the coronavirus epidemic. 

Why Do We Need Alcohol Awareness Month?

As mentioned earlier, Alcohol Awareness Month brings the stigma of alcoholism to light. Many people struggling with alcohol use disorder are in denial that they have a problem and don’t admit that they need help. Their family members and loved ones may also have difficulty addressing this uncomfortable situation. Alcohol Awareness Month provides resources to families of alcoholics so that they can get them the help they need. 

The Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorder in the U.S By the Numbers

In 2018, more than 14 million people in the U.S. ages 18 and older suffered from alcohol use disorder. It’s also the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. About 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year, and in 2014, deaths involving alcohol accounted for 31% of driving fatalities.

Binge drinking (five drinks for men and four drinks for women in two hours) is also a large cause of heavy alcohol use; more than 26% of people ages 18 and older reported binge drinking in the past month. In this same age group, 6.6% reported heavy drinking (binge drinking for five or more days) in the past month.

Alcohol use disorder also takes a financial toll on our country’s economy. In 2010, drinking-related costs reached almost $250 billion, and binge drinking made up three-quarters of this amount. It turns out all Americans are paying this cost, too — federal, state and local governments paid $2 of every $5 that year. Even if you don’t drink a lot, you’re paying for everyone else’s irresponsibility.

Because alcohol is legal and so widely available at restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and liquor stores, it’s easy to purchase and abuse. Its abuse potential can also be attributed to the fact that drinking has been a socially acceptable practice. This can easily be seen on TV shows, movies, and advertisements.

What to Expect During Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol Awareness Month gives educators and advocates a platform to share statistics on and speak about the dangers of alcohol use disorder. You’ll see how much alcohol use disorder can affect your finances, physical and mental health, current and future career, and relationships.

Earlier this month, the NCADD held the 10th annual National Drugs and Alcohol Facts Week, during which industry experts teach teens and families the myths of alcohol use disorder through educational events. 

This month, count on your local hospitals and healthcare facilities to provide resources on how to talk to your loved one about his or her alcohol use disorder, as well as risk factors for alcoholism.

Alcohol Awareness Month and Coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has left many businesses closed, and concerts and sports have been canceled until further notice. On top of that, it’s also led to much higher alcohol consumption. The New York Post reported that alcoholic beverage sales in the U.S. rose 55% in the week ending March 21. Compared to this time last year, spirit sales have jumped 75%. 

Even though liquor stores have been declared essential businesses in states like New Jersey, New York, and Florida, online liquor sales have increased by 243%.

“With routines out of the window, we might well find ourselves reaching for a drink more often,” said Dr. Richard Piper of Alcohol Change UK. 

The World Health Organization has declared alcohol consumption during this lockdown to be “an unhelpful coping strategy,” and they’re right. This rise in drinking can be detrimental to people recovering from alcoholism and alcohol abuse. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is advising people who do drink to do so moderately during this time. Men should keep their limit to two drinks per day, and women should keep to one drink per day.

During times of disaster like earthquakes, the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina and this current epidemic, it’s common for people to want to reach for a drink. However, now is the time to closely watch your alcohol consumption.

How Alcohol Affects the Immune System

Drinking too much can also affect your body’s ability to fight off infectious viruses and diseases like COVID-19. Alcohol can specifically mess with your gastrointestinal system, which contains microbes that are linked to the immune system. Although coronavirus mortality rates are mostly among seniors, young people are also at risk of contracting the disease. Almost 40% of those hospitalized in the U.S. right now range from ages 20 to 54. 

Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings Amid Coronavirus

Many Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings have become virtual in light of the coronavirus epidemic, which has already thrown people’s lives out of a normal routine. Rolling Stone reported that addiction support groups like AA are critical for addicts in their first year of recovery. However, some people suffering from alcoholism are vowing to keep going to in-person meetings as long as they can. This does pose a risk since the U.S. government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discourage gatherings of 10 or more people.

For others who prefer to stay inside during the epidemic, virtual meetings have been lifesavers. Depression and loneliness can set in when people are forced to self-isolate, and having people to talk to right now is critical. Check the Alcoholics Anonymous website in your area to see where virtual meetings are happening.

How to Maintain Recovery During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis is happening in the middle of Alcohol Awareness Month. It can be difficult to maintain your sobriety when you’re forced to stay inside or when you’ve lost a job. People in recovery usually depend on the company of their fellow addicts to stay clean. Boredom and self-isolation can be triggers for alcohol use disorder. In stressful and uncertain times like these, it might be tempting to reach for an alcoholic beverage. However, you shouldn’t give in to your cravings, as strong as they might be. Here are a few ways to hold on to sobriety during the coronavirus.

  • Learn a new hobby. Have you ever wanted to learn how to draw, knit or practice a dance? With YouTube, you can learn almost anything from the comfort of your home. There are plenty of hobbies you can develop that don’t involve drinking. If you have a partner or roommates, get them in on the fun, too. 
  • Join an online AA meeting. Many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are moving online to video platforms like Zoom and Google Hangouts Meet. This can help you stay on track during recovery but letting you interact with others who are in isolation. You can see how they’re dealing with it.
  • Keep a journal of your thoughts and emotions. Since you don’t have any place to go or any immediate responsibilities, take some time to look inside yourself and write down your thoughts in a journal. What’s the point of being sober? What do you believe? By reaffirming why you stopped drinking, you’ll be more likely to avoid relapse and keep on your recovery path.
  • Work out a plan for arguments. When you are inside with your family for long periods, tensions can rise, and you’ll most likely get into fights. Have a strategy in place for moments like these, like going into separate rooms when you start to get upset.
  • Keep tabs on your friends and loved ones suffering from alcohol use disorder. Now is the time to have some meaningful conversations with your fellow friends in recovery. Give them a call, write them a letter or send them a message letting them know you’re thinking about them and that you’re around if they need anything. Even if you aren’t suffering from alcohol use disorder, you might know someone who is, and they could be having a hard time right now. 

It’s hard to maintain a routine right now. However, recovery is all about preparing for the unexpected. In times like this, when triggers can pop up at any given moment, turn to the things that give you comfort: family, friends, and inner peace.

Resources for Alcoholism Recovery

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has provided a list of online resources that you can while on lockdown. This Alcohol Awareness Month, find a resource that can help you during recovery.

Get Help for Alcoholism at Discovery Institute

Are you or a loved one suffering from alcohol use disorder? Alcohol Awareness Month can be the perfect time to evaluate your drinking. Discovery Institute can provide you with the tools and skills you need to be rid of harmful substances for good. You have the power to regain control of your life and rediscover your potential. Contact us today to speak with one of our representatives and learn about how we can help you conquer addiction.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.