In line with a survey, the COVID pandemic is resulting in a rise in heavy alcohol consumption and consumption
- According to a survey commissioned by Alkermes, an Ireland-based biopharmaceutical company, around 17% of respondents said they had “drank heavily” in the past 30 days.
- U.S. dietary guidelines recommend no more than one standard drink per day for women and two for men.
- The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the World Health Organization have said that too much alcohol can weaken the body’s immune response to COVID-19.
More than 18 months after the US COVID-19 outbreak, nearly one in five Americans is consuming an unhealthy amount of alcohol, a new survey shows.
According to a survey by analytics firm The Harris Poll, commissioned by Alkermes, an Ireland-based biopharmaceutical company, around 17% of respondents said they had “drank heavily” in the past 30 days.
The survey was conducted online from March 30 through April 7 of 6,006 US adults 21 years and older. Of these, 1,003 adults reported “heavy drinking”.
“Heavy drinking” was defined as having had two days of heavy alcohol consumption at least twice in the last 30 days in a week. A “heavy drinking day” was defined as four or more alcoholic beverages for women and five or more alcoholic beverages for men.
Dr. Neeraj Gandotra, chief medical officer with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Authority, said the study’s results were “not surprising”. Nearly 90% of those with a substance use disorder are not receiving treatment, and alcohol and drug use usually worsen with isolation, Gandotra said.
Several studies have found that Americans buy more alcohol and drink more often during the coronavirus pandemic.
A study by the Rand Corp. Last fall, US alcohol consumption was found to have increased 14% compared to pre-pandemic levels. According to the study, women in particular increased days of heavy alcohol consumption by 41%.
Another study by researchers at the University of Arizona found a “dramatic increase in harmful alcohol use” in the first six months of the pandemic. According to the study, higher alcohol consumption was most linked to job losses due to COVID-19.
“While we are still learning how the COVID pandemic is affecting alcohol consumption, it seems clear that some people drink more while others drink less. In many studies, an increase in consumption during the pandemic was linked to an increase in stress, ”said National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Director Dr. George Koob said USA TODAY.
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The stress of world events and fears of the future can increase alcohol consumption and exacerbate symptoms of alcohol abuse disorder, as it did after previous disasters like September 11 and Hurricane Katrina, Koob wrote in a blog post last year.
As the world continues to battle COVID-19, it is not clear whether the trend will continue.
“Dozens of relatively small survey studies have assessed alcohol consumption at different points in time during the pandemic, but it is unclear from these cross-sectional studies whether people’s consumption patterns will change over the course of the pandemic,” Koob said. “It is entirely possible that some people’s consumption levels have continued to increase over time, while others have declined.”
According to the new Harris Poll, many respondents who reported heavy drinking said they had negative psychological, physical, and psychosocial effects in the past 12 months.
Three in ten said they continued to drink even though it made them feel depressed, anxious, or exacerbated another health problem. About 1 in 4 said they would keep drinking after a memory loss. More than 1 in 5 people experienced withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol wore off. And 23% gave up or reduced activities that were important or interesting for them in order to drink.
The survey found that more than half of respondents who reported heavy drinking were aware of treatment options for alcohol addiction such as support groups and rehabilitation treatments in dormitories. However, 87% were not receiving treatment at the time of the survey.
More than half said that they were either “very” or “somewhat” motivated to seek treatment for their alcohol consumption. Friends and family can play a role in influencing loved ones who drink heavily to seek help, the survey found.
More than half of the respondents who reported heavy drinking said that someone had raised them about their alcohol consumption. In this group, nearly 4 out of 5 said they were family members who raised a concern. Almost half of this group who had received treatment said it was because their family raised concerns about their alcohol use.
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“Be honest with yourself when you make decisions that are not in your best interests,” said Gandotra. “You can seek help anonymously or from friends and family who may also be affected by your alcohol use. Treatment is available and effective. You don’t have to fight alone.”
How Much Alcohol is Too Much?
The Institute’s guidelines on alcohol abuse recommend limiting alcohol consumption to no more than three to four drinks per “occasion”. Men should not have more than 14 standard drinks per week; Women shouldn’t have more than seven.
The U.S. dietary guidelines recommend no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. A standard drink serving is a 12-ounce beer or hard seltzer with 5% alcohol, a 5-ounce glass of wine with 12% alcohol, or a 1.5-ounce shot with 40% alcohol, or 80-proof liquor .
People who abuse alcohol are at higher risk of liver disease, heart disease, depression, stroke, and stomach bleeding, as well as several types of cancer, according to the Institute for Alcohol Abuse. Pregnant women, people taking medication, and people recovering from alcohol addiction should not drink alcohol
The Institute on Alcohol Abuse and the World Health Organization have stated that too much alcohol can weaken the body’s immune response to COVID-19.
“Alcohol abuse activates both the immune system, causing inflammation and the body’s immune response to viral and bacterial infections,” Koob said in the post. “Ultimately, impaired immune system function and increased susceptibility to respiratory disease could contribute to more severe COVID-19 and a higher risk of death.”
If you are concerned about having a drinking problem, the NIAAA Rethinking Drinking website can help you evaluate your relationship with alcohol and decide how to proceed. For information on alcohol treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, see the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator.