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Is the COVID-19 Quarantine Raising Binge and Stress Drinking?

COVID-19 Quarantine Raising Binge and Stress Drinking

The United States has always been viewed as an innovator in technological advances that created millions of jobs nationwide. This has built a culture of hustle and bustle, which, in turn, created an environment filled with stress to meet deadlines and adhering to strict schedules. In many cases, it has pushed people over the edge looking for solutions to combat their stress. While quarantine has been a blessing for some to reset their mind, body, and soul and spend time with family, others have viewed it more as a curse.

Some of us look at this quarantine as an opportunity we’ll never have again – the ability to detach from reality and catch up with our families. However, others may live far from loved ones and lean on the recovery community to help them prosper in this life. Being confined in our homes for extended periods can wear down those with the most mental fortitude, and many are using social media outlets to gaze into a world other than theirs.

The world of social media is filled with temptations, and the quarantine is giving many the idea they can give in to their desires because we’re feeling hopeless. If you scroll through Instagram, Facebook, or Reddit, you’ll see pictures of friends groups and their Zoom meetings, which contain alcoholic beverages, also known as “quarantinis.” It’s a fact that many people will leave quarantine without developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Still, you have to bear in mind that not everyone can binge drink without consequence.  

Unemployment rates have soared to levels a majority of us haven’t witnessed in our lifetime, but the government stepped in to provide some aid and cushion the fall. The stimulus checks provided a nice boost to our economy and helped us pay some bills, but since the start of quarantine, we’ve witnessed a dizzying increase in alcohol sales that could be attributed to the extra cash. 

Those struggling with alcohol use disorder are at increased risk right now as they try to cope with stress, and those not diagnosed are at serious risk of developing long-term problems. With what we know, you may be wondering if the COVID-19 quarantine is raising stress and binge drinking? Is COVID-19 affecting relapse rates? Let’s delve deeper into this topic below. 

Alcohol Sales Are On The Rise

As we mentioned briefly above, alcohol sales have skyrocketed, proving that people are turning to drugs to cope with their struggles during these unprecedented times. An article released by MarketWatch showed that alcohol sales increased by a staggering 55 percent in the third week of March when compared to the same time last year. A more sobering statistic, however, is that online alcohol sales jumped 243 percent since the start of the pandemic. 

The article goes on to say that spirits like gin, tequila, and pre-mixed cocktails led the way with sales jumping 75 percent when compared to the same time last year. While beer sales have dropped as consumers shift to more health-conscious choices, quarantine has caused a 66 percent increase in sales, while wine sales rose 42 percent. 

Although many companies have shuttered across the United States due to strict measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, liquor stores were deemed essential businesses by states and kept open. With nothing else to do and more time on our hands than usual, drinking has been a way of passing the time for many of us.

How Do I Know If I Have A Drinking Problem?

Many of us have moved the party home due to the shuttering of bars, clubs, and restaurants. Rather than enjoying a happy hour at your favorite place, there is no “last call” when you’re at home. Those struggling with addiction and moderating their alcohol intake have seen their problems magnified during this indefinite period of isolation. We are desperate for normalcy, and many of us who thrive in structured environments are binge drinking to cope with the stress of being inside. 

If you find yourself drinking more than usual and find it challenging to either stop or slow down, UTSouthwestern Medical Center says to HALT, and ask yourself these questions:

Do I really want that drink? Or am I just –

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

Acknowledging these emotions may help you decide what you need. When you slow down and ask yourself these questions, you can find a healthier option than alcohol and hope to cope with COVID-19 stress without drinking. Sometimes all it takes is a quick phone call to a friend to release that stress and save you from binge and stress drinking. 

During your time at home, you may feel inclined to revert to past patterns like drinking excessively. Individuals with existing mental health conditions are at an even higher risk of worsening symptoms and giving into their addictions.

How To Support Your Friends or Family Right Now

Many of us have never experienced anything like this in our lifetimes, and hopefully, we never will again when this concludes. We are all seeking solutions and looking for structure to overcome our stress and anxiety. Physical isolation can trigger increased alcohol use and the potential for a fatal drug overdose. 

Many of us are alone at home due to the pandemic, which makes it less likely to observe an overdose and call for help. On top of that, if someone is binge or stress drinking, they could fall and hurt themselves. Without any help, they could lose their lives if they are seriously injured and unable to call paramedics. 

These are frightening possibilities to consider, but during this time, we must be supportive by reaching out and being kind to one another. Remember, we are all fighting a battle we can’t see, so consider these suggestions listed below. 

  • Acknowledge their feelings: We all manage stress in our own way, so be sure not to dismiss or minimize your friend’s concerns. Anxiety has a way of causing unintentional worries, which cripples a person professional, socially, and in other aspects of their quest for wellness.
  • Offer to text, talk, or video chat: Offering your support goes further than you might expect. Even your introverted friends need social interaction from time to time, and letting them know you’re there for them can go a long way. COVID-19 has made it challenging for face-to-face interactions, but any form of communication is useful right now. 
  • Discuss behavior changes: If you noticed changes in a loved one’s behavior, such as becoming more withdrawn than usual, let them know about it. You must thoughtfully approach them because it could be construed as rude, so make sure to show compassion when discussing this touchy topic.  

If you’ve noticed an increase in binge and stress drinking due to COVID-19, it might be in your best interest to talk with someone. It could mean treatment is in your future, or potential other options to help you deal with these stressful times. If you see changes in yourself or others, now is the time to nip it in the bud. Please don’t wait to get help when so many options exist.

Author

Christopher Schumacher

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