As the one-year anniversary of quarantine has recently passed and the COVID-19 vaccine is now widely available, the public has begun cautiously celebrating a soon end to the global pandemic. Despite these emerging feelings of relief, the pandemic has caused damage in its wake that is unlikely to heal anytime soon. Due, in large part, to personal limitations imposed on the public to stifle the spread of the virus, substance addiction rates have increased profoundly, specifically alcoholism.
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How the Pandemic Contributes to Alcoholism
Within the past year, COVID-19 has been responsible for millions of fatalities, unprecedented unemployment rates, poverty, and homelessness. When closely examined, this deadly virus has also had a severe impact on mental health. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately 40% of adults in the United States reported symptoms of anxiety or depression compared to 10% who reported the same symptoms pre-pandemic.
Due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, many individuals experienced unparalleled stress. Grief from losing a loved one to COVID-19, worry of contracting the deadly virus, fear of unemployment, and isolation due to quarantine protocols, among other stresses, contributed to a spike in mental health disorders. As stated by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, these stressors may encourage higher alcohol consumption. People may drink more heavily to cope with stress, sleep disturbances, and boredom, increasing their risk for alcohol use disorder. The institute also states that social distancing has profound implications on access to addiction treatment services. Social support is a very powerful reinforcer for humans and is highly beneficial for helping people avoid relapse or an escalation in alcohol use.
As COVID-19 began to spread, the end result seemed less and less certain among the public. It was during the most volatile months that alcohol use spiked. A study conducted by New York University’s School of Global Public Health found that, of the 5,850 survey respondents who said that they drink, 29% reported increasing their alcohol use in the midst of the pandemic, whereas individuals who struggled with depression were 64% more likely to increase their alcohol intake.
Despite its vast influence, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the first instance where a major increase in alcohol use has been witnessed. According to a study conducted by the New York Academy of Medicine, there was a reported 24.6% increase in alcohol consumption shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Due to these two separate studies, it can be deduced that global crises severely impact public morale and mental health, and those who are predisposed or at high risk for developing substance addiction are especially vulnerable at these times.
How Alcohol Misuse Contributes to the Probability of COVID-19 Contraction
Ironically, as the COVID-19 pandemic has generated a significant increase in alcohol consumption, this very consumption has been scientifically linked to the likelihood of contracting the deadly virus. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol misuse interferes with the body’s immune response to viral and bacterial infections. In the lungs, excessive alcohol damages epithelial cells that line the lung surface and is associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome. Ultimately, impaired immune system function and increased susceptibility to respiratory illness could contribute to more severe cases of COVID-19.
In addition to the physiological risks associated with consuming alcohol, the substance significantly increases the risk of contracting the virus due to its intoxicating effects. Once an individual becomes intoxicated, their inhibitions are lowered and they may easily disregard social distancing guidelines and become vulnerable to contraction. The individual may unknowingly be contributing to the spread of the virus by removing their mask, sharing a drink, touching their face, or generally being too physically close to others.
Let Asheville Recovery Center Help
During this pandemic, the threat of addiction is present now more than ever. In these unprecedented times, it is important to nurture healthy coping skills and remember that we will get through this together.
The founders of Asheville Recovery Center, as well as many of our addiction therapists, have struggled with addiction and now enjoy life in recovery. They understand the struggles of addiction and how difficult it can be. If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call (828)383-0784 and speak with an addiction expert today.