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Coping With COVID-19: The Rise of Alcohol Consumption

March 02, 2021
Coping With COVID-19: The Rise of Alcohol Consumption

For more than a year now, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives. It’s something that we are all going through together yet experiencing in personal ways. Some report positive effects such as slowing down life’s pace, spending more time at home and with family, working remotely, and making more innovative use of technology.

Unfortunately, according to Laura Jackson, LISW-S, LICDC, a Specialty Treatment Provider with TriHealth EAP, other experiences people share might not be so healthy.

“Maybe you have heard or even can relate to gaining the ‘COVID 15,’ referencing how limited activities and more time to snack have contributed to packing on additional pounds during the pandemic,” Jackson says. “Another seemingly common and potentially harmful consequence is that people are consuming more alcohol.”

Studies Show Significant Increase

Research reports from 2020 support what many of us have heard ― alcohol sales have sky rocketed. Both men and women report drinking more often and having more drinks at a time. Parents with children under age 18 living at home saw the sharpest increase. A study found in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health states that all participants reported drinking more due to increased stress, alcohol availability, and boredom.

Strategies to Reduce Alcohol Use

If you are among the many people who acknowledge drinking more during the pandemic, it could be time to consider a little self-reflection.

“The best place to start is to be honest with yourself,” Jackson says. “Have you tried to cut back and were unsuccessful? Have you noticed any consequences from increasing your alcohol consumption, such as weight gain, irritability, or spending more money on alcohol? Has your partner or a close friend mentioned noticing changes in your behavior? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the time is now to make some positive changes.”

Consider trying one or more of the below suggestions:

  • Make a plan. Your plan might include limiting the number of days you consume a drink or how many drinks you have at a time. You also might identify what kind of alcohol you will drink and stick to it. For example, drinking only beer.
  • Share your plan. Tell your partner or someone close to you what your plan is and celebrate small successes along the way.
  • Choose wisely.  Pick a lower strength drink, use a smaller glass, or try alternating a glass of water
    between drinks.

Benefits of Decreased Consumption

It’s no secret that cutting back on alcohol offers many health benefits. Reducing alcohol consumption can aid in weight loss, especially in the reduction of inches from the waistline. It also can lead to an improved state of mind or mood, decreased anxiety, and more energy. Decreasing alcohol intake also contributes to better quality of sleep and a stronger immune system.

Three Ways to Support Someone Struggling with Addiction

Having a loved one with an alcohol or drug problem can be a catch-22. You want to be supportive, but how supportive is too supportive? Helping a family member, friend or colleague who struggles with addiction means understanding the difference between supporting verses enabling. Classic signs of enabling include taking care of the person’s financial responsibilities or calling on behalf of someone to skip an obligation. To avoid enabling someone with an addiction, follow these strategies for offering assistance:

  1. Educate Yourself about Addiction: Read books and articles or seek counseling. It’s important for you to learn about your loved one's addiction to know what signs or symptoms to expect and how to handle varying situations.
  2. Seek Support: If your loved one is struggling with an alcohol or substance addiction, consider visiting the following websites to learn more and to access support groups:
  3. Encourage the Person to Find Help: Urge the person to seek professional help. The Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program at TriHealth, for example, provides a path to recovery for those dealing with chemical dependency, The National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders at 1 800 662 HELP (4357).