U.S. sales of alcoholic beverages rose 55% in the week ending March 21, according to the market research firm Nielsen. On line alcohol sales were up 243% that same week! Why? Do we even need to ask the question? Alcohol has, for so many of us, been a common panacea for daily stress. Of course, we all are experiencing significantly more stress and anxiety today than we were a few short weeks ago thanks to COVID-19.
As social distancing and self-isolation drags on to longer and longer time frames, increased stress and boredom creates the perfect recipe for increased use of alcohol. People are coping with increased anxiety about job loss, income reductions, kids at home, spouses at home, fear of death for themselves and their loves ones, and limited methods for getting a break from it all. Our usual outlets of spending time with friends and family are limited or nonexistent.
The World Health Organization just announced that drinking too much alcohol can actually increase a person's risk of being infected with COVID-19 and heighten their symptoms. How? Ingesting alcohol can disrupt the natural barrier in our GI system that protects you from viruses and bacteria, As a 2015 issue of Alcohol Research: Current Reviews summarized, a number of studies have shown how excessive alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to pneumonia and acute respiratory stress syndromes both of which are linked to COVID-19. In order words, excessive alcohol consumption gives the virus an advantage.
So how can we manage our anxiety more productively? Tom Mlodzik, licensed clinical social worker, drug and alcohol counselor and marriage and family therapist here at Restore recommends individuals take positive actions like increasing exercise, meditation, gardening or yoga, and for those with a history of abuse or addiction, reach out to online support groups like AA or Restore's IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program). Telehealth counseling services, like the ones offered at Restore, can also provide an outlet to refocus and replenish our mental health...particularly if we are the ones who serve as pillars of strength for others - such as children or family members.