Toilet paper isn’t the only thing flying off the shelves during the COVID-19 pandemic. With restaurants and bars closing their doors, more people are purchasing alcohol and using it as a method of coping with social distancing and isolation. With virtual happy hours becoming more popular and people consuming alcohol more frequently, there is growing concern surrounding the use of alcohol as a form of self-medication. Behind closed doors and without others around to observe alcohol use, rates of overconsumption can become harder to detect and address.
Overconsumption During the COVID-19 Pandemic
People are dealing with higher levels of stress and anxiety in the midst of the coronavirus scare. Even before the pandemic, alcohol has been commonly used as a method of dealing with difficult emotions. While under normal circumstances, many people are able to limit their intake, when faced with life-changing events like the COVID-19 epidemic, rates of alcohol abuse tend to increase, especially in those who were already drinking regularly. While intoxication may provide temporary relief, in reality, consumption of alcohol can actually worsen mental health and weaken your immune system, putting you at greater risk for contracting illnesses.
The loss of routine, social isolation, and frustration or boredom related to confinement contributes greatly to increased consumption of alcohol. Without regular responsibilities and activities to limit intake, it can be easier to overconsume than ever before. Even with the information readily available online, many people are surprised to find out how many drinks are considered excessive. On average, for women, consuming 7 or more drinks is considered excessive, and for men, consuming 15 or more drinks is considered heavy.
Stressors and mental health conditions can trigger substance abuse. Many people have begun ordering alcohol online to be delivered and with large quantities readily available in the home, it is easier than ever to overconsume without realizing it. Overconsumption, however, can put even long-time drinkers at risk for health complications. Studies show that alcohol consumption can affect the immune system in a way that puts a person at risk for increased susceptibility to illnesses like pneumonia. It can also lead to the development of other lung infections and impair a person’s immune system for days at a time. This makes it easier to catch illnesses, like the coronavirus, during binges.
Preventing Alcohol Abuse While Social Distancing
Consuming alcohol does not necessarily mean it will evolve into a problem. Light drinking can occur without significantly impacting the immune system. Being mindful and honest about your consumption can help you keep it in check. For those who were not regular consumers of alcohol before the pandemic, starting the behavior now is not advisable. If drinking was part of your social routine prior to social distancing, finding ways to monitor your consumption is something that should be prioritized. Below are ways you can continue drinking without overdoing it:
- Limit your drinking: Being aware of what is considered excessive drinking can help you limit your intake. Be mindful of how much you are serving yourself. If you limit yourself to one drink but use a large glass, you may be overdoing it.
- Reduce sugary drinks: It is easy to overconsume sweet drinks. In addition to potentially consuming too much alcohol, increased intake of sugar can impact your sleep quality and immune system. Simple drinks can help you consume less and may pose less of a health risk for those with underlying physical health problems.
- Consume different drinks: If you have trouble maintaining your limits, consider consuming low-alcohol drinks or beverages without alcohol instead to reduce intake. This can help you avoid overconsumption.
- Create rules for yourself: It can be easy to relax your own rules especially if no one is around to see or say anything. If prior to the pandemic you limited your intake or did not drink past a certain hour, do not start making exceptions now.
- Change your focus: These are uncertain times and it can be easy to turn to substances as a method of coping. Rather than trying to avoid negative feelings through drinking, focus on other things to keep you connected. Alcohol does not need to be the staple of your social interactions and there are other ways to connect in meaningful ways during this unprecedented time.
If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health issues or a substance abuse problem during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nexus Recovery is here to help. During this time, our doors remain open, and we’re taking every necessary step to ensure that our staff and clients are safe. For more information about how we can help you or your loved one on the road to recovery, contact us today.