COVID-19 is Driving People to Drink
Going in or out of COVID-19 – no matter which way, stress is driving people to drink.
It would seem that COVID-19 virus has its tentacles wrapped around every aspect of your life as you know it.
While we know that stress can precipitate increased levels of drug and alcohol use, what is concerning about this pandemic that new stressors are emerging.
Firstly, there’s the changing of our most innate social behaviours, such as hugging, shaking hands and sharing a meal with friends, to prevent the spread of the virus that’s having an impact.
There’s dealing with the new normal of “social distancing” and being isolated from family and friends.
There’s the economic uncertainty, including dealing with being stood down from work, unemployment, applying for benefits that is having an impact.
There’s mounting financial pressure. In a COVID-19 affected world, peoples’ ability to pay their bills is diminishing. Some people have lost their livelihoods. Others have lost a roof over their heads.
For some, home schooling children and trying to work from home has become an enormous stressor.
Even adapting to a change of routine and being unable to access pleasurable activities, such as going to the gym is stressful
It would seem like stress is building up in the world like a pressure cooking and in an effort to let off steam, another potential public health crisis is brewing.
Alcohol misuse has been on the rise over the COVID-19 pandemic as individuals drink as a means of coping with these new stressors.
Often this is driven by feelings of powerlessness to change the current circumstances – often it’s easier, as some addicts report, to drink forget about those feelings.
The Lancet states:
“Stress is a prominent risk factor for the onset and maintenance of alcohol misuse”.
It’s been proven time and time again that alcohol use rises after experiencing traumatic events. For example, alcohol consumption rose after the 2008 global financial crisis.
Chronic alcohol use results in changes to neural tissues and reward pathways within the brain. Chronic alcohol use further causes impairment of emotional regulation, which can lead the user to escalate their drinking to achieve the same affect in changing their mood.
Although no human trials have been performed (due to ethical concerns), animal studies have demonstrated negative effects, including a heightened reaction to stress and neural pathway (brain) responses. It could be inferred that social isolation could be a trigger for increased alcohol usage.
Additionally, a risk factor for alcohol misuse and dependency disorders, that is a heightened inclination towards impulsive and risk taking behaviours by individuals, may be elicited during times of high stress. This has been reflected in reports of spiking alcohol use, relapse and other risky behaviours.
If you are finding that your alcohol use has been escalating over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic period and you’re feeling out of control and unable to stop, the first step towards finding a solution is viewing your situation with self-compassion and asking for help.
We are living in an unusually stressful time and you, or your loved ones are worthy of care. The Hader Clinic Queensland provides specialist care for the treatment of alcohol dependency and can confidentially help you find a road back towards sobriety and happiness.
Clay J, Parker M. Alcohol use and misuse during the COVID-19 pandemic: a potential public health crisis? April 2020. The Lancet Public Health.
Nanz-Barr et al. Effect of Social Isolation on stress related behavioural and neuroendocrine state in the rat. 2004 (152) Behavioural Brain Research
de Goejj M, Suhrcke M, et al. How economic crises affect alcohol consumption and alcohol-related health problems: A realist systematic review. Social science & medicine. 2015;131:131-46.
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