Amid the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis, there has been one product leaving shelves more frequently than all the others, and we are not referring to toilet paper. 

The government has deemed alcohol sales as an essential business, and also has loosened restrictions concerning home-delivery and carry-out drinks. Consumers are buying more alcohol amid this current crisis than ever before. The concerning part about all of this is that it could lead to higher rates of alcoholism than there has been in the past. 

How Much Alcohol is Being Consumed During COVID-19?

Some studies have been done over the past couple of months to analyze the sales of alcohol, and they’ve shown that grocery stores saw an increase in the following:

  • Wine – 27%
  • Spirits – 26% 
  • Beer and Cider – 14% 

These sales increases were compared to that of a year earlier the same week of March 14th. As far as more specifics are concerned, boxed wine increased over 50%, 24-packs of beer just under a quarter percentage (24%). And also, online sales of alcohol have increased by 42% on the year.

Some reasons that these percentages are so high may be due in large part to bars and restaurants being closed because of the pandemic. However, that’s not to say that this couldn’t also be influenced by the current state of economic and psychological stress. 

Because of the mental and financial stressors, the pandemic is having on others, people are buying large amounts of cheap alcohol in order to cope with their stress. The more alcohol they have, the more they’re able to use it in an attempt to forget about their problems or process them in a more lucid state of mind. This kind of behavior is inevitably what leads to alcoholism

Some of this increased drinking and drunk behavior may come to have both short and long-term effects on the health and safety of individuals. This kind of impact is imperative to consider not only when consuming alcohol in a more tranquil, normal point-in-time, but especially in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Short-Term Effects of Increased Alcohol Consumption

Increased alcohol consumption in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic has many short and long-term effects when it comes to the health and safety of individual consumers. Short-term effects pertain to resulting action in the near rather than distant future.

As far as the short-term is concerned, consuming alcohol has dangerous potential to compromise one’s immune system during a pandemic. Alcohol misuse weakens the body’s immune system responses, and in the case of COVID-19, these responses include the lungs’ ability to fight off COVID-19.

Not only that but the increased sales and consumption of alcohol as a result of the Coronavirus could also have a detrimental impact on interpersonal conflicts/violence. This is never a good thing obviously; adding alcohol to violence or conflict only intensifies dangerous situations.

Long-Term Effects of Increased Alcohol Consumption

When something is considered long-term, it has either happened for a long time or will continue for an extended period of time in the future. As far as the long-term effects of increased alcohol consumption are concerned, some studies have shown that dependence and substance use disorder can increase well into a person’s future. This is due to the factors of quarantine, the pandemic, and alcohol purchase/consumption. 

In other words, during the pandemic, those who are participating in large amounts of alcohol consumption are building a foundation for alcohol dependence and addiction. 

For example, after Hurricane Katrina, alcohol consumption increased in Louisiana. Later, when Hurricane Rita came around, the amount of young people misusing alcohol also increased. All of that points to an increased likelihood that those who are consuming more alcohol in the midst of this pandemic are more likely to suffer from alcohol addiction

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder is characterized by alcoholism, the insatiable desire to consume alcohol. 

It is immensely difficult for some people to refuse alcohol because they may have developed a dependency. Dependency on alcohol influences not only the decisions of individuals who suffer from alcoholism, but it also influences their thoughts. So much so that their thoughts dwell heavily on when and where their next drink is coming from. 

Misusing alcohol impairs one’s judgment. Not only that, but their decision-making skills are compromised as well. When someone drinks a moderate or large amount of alcohol, their pleasure center is triggered, heightening their drinking experience. Because of this, desires become more and more difficult to satisfy over time. When this happens, dependency arises. 

Dependency is characterized by one’s sole focus and health being centered around their drinking habits. It is also characterized by the priority that drinking has over their lives. Those who are affected indirectly also suffer; this includes family members, friends, loved ones, and even coworkers. This is what is commonly referred to as neglect. Neglect has been known to dismantle the well-being of many families.

Alcohol use disorder has the power to dismantle even the strongest of family structures. Because of this, it is imperative that people recognize the signs of alcoholism and its destructive potential. Doing so could save family members and loved ones an immense amount of heartache. 

Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder

Some signs of alcohol use disorder include the following:

  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Lack of self-control
  • Consistent lying
  • Consistently under the influence of alcohol
  • Poor mental health (depression, anxiety, etc.)

Factors of Alcohol Use Disorder

There are many factors that could influence someone to suffer from alcohol use disorder (including a global pandemic such as COVID-19). Some of these factors include the following:

  • Marital problems
  • Peer pressure
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Emotional or physical abuse

Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder During COVID-19

There are many options to help people treat their substance use disorder, even in the midst of a global pandemic such as COVID-19. Some of these options are referred to as telehealth options. Telehealth refers to when modern technology such as video conferencing, texting, or web-based live chats are used to treat those suffering from substance use disorder conveniently when options like a doctor’s office are inconvenient or unavailable. 

Telehealth options can include the following:

  • Phone-centered Care
  • Video Calling
  • Virtual Reality
  • Texting
  • Mobile Apps
  • Web-centered Care

Don’t Walk Alone On the Road to Recovery

At Discovery, our goal is to meet individuals where they’re at in their recovery journey. Individualized care is at the center of what we do. If you would like to learn more, you can contact us here

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.