Almost a full year later and the COVID-19 pandemic is still surging across the globe, leaving death, grief, and uncertainty in its path. This is especially true for individuals who are struggling with substance abuse disorders and no longer have access to the resources they need to stay sober. We are battling an epidemic within a pandemic, and the effects are alarming. Due to this, there has been a notable development in alcohol sales, relapses, and overdose deaths as substance abuse quickly becomes more prominent.
In the midst of the pandemic, experts warned that any changes to the way people consumed alcohol could lead to significant problems — especially for those who are more susceptible to substance abuse disorders. Now that a year has passed, the effect of the pandemic on those struggling with addiction and those predisposed to it is becoming more evident.
Alcohol Abuse Amid Pandemic Woes
While unwinding with a glass of wine or a “quarantini” might have seemed like a fun way to cope with the unprecedented times of the pandemic, for many, it’s taken a dangerous turn. It’s no secret that people are drinking quite a bit more since the first quarantine; however, this simple indulgence to pass the time is rapidly turning into a compulsion and adding greater risk to the national health crisis we currently find ourselves in.
Alcohol sales during coronavirus chaos saw a massive increase, especially during the beginning stages of the initial isolation mandates. In a report by NielsenIQ, data shows that alcohol sales were up 54% in late March (compared to last year), while the month of April netted a 500% increase in online liquor sales. Unfortunately, as the pandemic ensued, more and more individuals took to drinking as a daily habit. In fact, one in four Millennials and 1 in 5 Gen Xers said they had upped their alcohol intake.
In terrible times like this, it’s understandable that people are bored, lonely, and scared. And when you can’t go to work, can’t see your friends or family, or do any of the things in your normal routine, it’s only natural to lean on something that helps soften the pain. However, as many of us know, washing our burdens away with a stiff drink can lead to some severe consequences. Excessive drinking has significant repercussions on the body — increasing the risk for liver disease, obesity, breast cancer, depression, and various cardiovascular problems. Not to mention, it can bring unsuspecting individuals down the dangerous path of addiction.
The United States is not the only region that’s experiencing a dramatic uptick in alcohol sales and overdoses related to COVID-19. In fact, figures for England and Wales show that alcohol-related deaths hit an all-time high in the first nine months of 2020 alone. From January 2020 to September 2020, approximately 5,460 deaths due to alcohol were reported — a 16% increase from 2019 and the biggest toll recorded since 2001.
Additionally, the Office for National Statistics discovered that alcohol-related deaths reached a startling peak of 12.8 deaths per 100,000 people in the first three months of 2020. This rate is higher than any other on record and continued at this level through September. It’s important to note that England and Wales comprise 90% of the United Kingdom population, which makes these statistics even more alarming.
In a separate study published in the BMJ Open, researchers assessed international alcohol consumption patterns of 83 countries during the COVID-19 isolation period. Like many other studies, researchers also noted an increase in alcohol craving and consumption amongst those who have an alcohol use disorder and those who don’t. By creating a cross-sectional survey, they were able to evaluate:
- Psychiatric factors like anxiety, depression, and impulsivity
- Changes in drinking behaviors before and during the quarantine
By relating these drinking behaviors to COVID-19 specific stress factors, they found that 36% of people increased their alcohol intake.
Unfortunately, the highly stressful predicament the pandemic put our society in has led many to find comfort and escape in the wrong habits. COVID-19 and its related stress have affected drinking behaviors throughout the general population in more ways we can begin to understand.
COVID-19 and Its Effect on the Recovery Process
Individuals in recovery and working the steps are more susceptible to relapses in times of high stress. With restricted access to basic healthcare needs and treatment resources, many are turning to their old ways to cope with the trauma of the pandemic. Even those strong in their sobriety are, unfortunately, not immune to the displacement COVID-19 has caused.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 81,000 overdose deaths occurred in the United States within a 12-month period (ending in May 2020). Sadly, this is the highest number of overdose deaths that’s been recorded in 12 months. While there was a significant alcohol increase during pandemic chaos, the primary culprit of these overdose deaths was synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The CDC also noted a 26.5% increase in overdose deaths related to cocaine.
With widespread shutdowns and strict social distancing measures, the recovery process becomes even more difficult than before. Individuals no longer have the luxury of going to an AA or NA meeting when they need it. Therapy sessions and meetings are now being held online, and while that’s helpful for some, it doesn’t have the same effect as face-to-face sessions.
This escalation in relapses and overdose deaths highlights the severe need for treatment resources to be accessible to those who are struggling with addiction. Luckily, the CDC and other entities are working with states and cities across the country to continue overdose prevention efforts. Additionally, many reputable addiction treatment facilities are taking the necessary precautions that allow individuals to receive the help they need while staying and healthy from COVID-19.
Contact Us at Find Addiction Rehabs
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the professionals at Find Addiction Rehabs. We are here to help you locate a treatment facility that aligns with your specific needs while following the proper COVID-19 guidelines. Even in unprecedented times like these, sobriety is possible — let us help you start your recovery journey today.