Drinking Too Much Alcohol During the Pandemic?
There’s Help Available!Written by Meredith Roudebush-Albaugh, LCSW
Have you found yourself drinking more alcohol since the start of the pandemic? If so, you are not alone. Both stress and boredom are two common contributing factors to this increasing habit among so many during the pandemic. Many people are experiencing heightened stress due to fears related to COVID-19 itself, as well as other stressors related to the pandemic and multiple shutdowns we have experienced in the last year. Many individuals have been laid off or furloughed, causing significant economic stress and fears of financial insecurity. Those who have continued working have either experienced increased stress from being an essential worker, exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace, or forced to work from home, where the boundaries between personal and professional life are blurred.
As a result of this increased, significant stress, many individuals have turned to alcohol to “take the edge off” or provide a temporary reprieve from the increased stress since the pandemic began. With restaurants, sporting events, gyms and other areas of recreation and social gathering shut down, many have turned to substances like alcohol due to the accessibility during a time when so many other resources have become inaccessible. While alcohol consumption in moderation is typically not a concern for the average individual, who does not have a predisposition to alcohol addiction (as evidenced by a family history of addiction), (or other health problems or medications that have caused a physician to caution the individual against alcohol consumption), the danger arises when alcohol is consumed on a more regular basis or when binge drinking occurs (binge drinking is typically when a woman consumes 4 or more alcoholic drinks or a man consumes 5 or more alcoholic drinks within a 2 hour period) (Christensen, 2020). With regular consumption over time, our bodies build up a tolerance to alcohol, so if we are trying to achieve the same feeling over time, more and more alcohol will be required to achieve the same effect. This is even more concerning when we consider the many medical issues, which can be caused by overconsumption of alcohol, such as liver disease, obesity, a wide range of cardiac issues, mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and even increased risks related to suicide (Christensen, 2020). What can begin as a tool to help a person unwind can result in not only medical concerns, but also in the chains of addiction. If you find yourself struggling to break the cycle of drinking, it might be time to reach out for support.
We know from clinical research that Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, in conjunction with participating in a 12 Step Program such as Alcoholics Anonymous has shown to be significantly more effective than just Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, alone (Ouimette, P. C., Finney, J. W., & Moos, R. H. 1997). One advantage of seeking support for alcohol addiction during the pandemic is that Alcoholics Anonymous is more “anonymous” than ever. Individuals can google “AA” and their respective city, town and find a list of meetings they can attend via Zoom from their very own homes (or from anywhere else!). I encourage my clients, who are struggling with over-consumption of alcohol to log in to an AA meeting over Zoom. They can leave their camera off and remain muted for the duration of the session if they just want to test the waters by listening in. Additionally, if they prefer to visit an AA meeting in an entirely different locale (for added anonymity), they can do so with the help of the internet! Participation in 12 Step Recovery Programs has never been more accessible than it is today. If you need support, right now is a great time to reach out. If you are struggling with coping with stress, anxiety, depression or other mood symptoms, I would also encourage you to call our office to schedule an appointment. You are not alone and there is so much support available. We want to walk alongside you through the process of healing.
Heredia Therapy Group: 562-821-1491
AA 24/7 Hotline: 1-800-839-1686
Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMHSA) Help Line: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Christensen, Thor (7/1/2020). COVID-19 Pandemic Brings New Concerns About Excessive Drinking. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/07/01/covid-19-pandemic-brings-new-concerns-about-excessive-drinking
Ouimette, P. C., Finney, J. W., & Moos, R. H. (1997). Twelve-step and cognitive-behavioral treatment for substance abuse: A comparison of treatment effectiveness. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65(2), 230–240. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.65.2.230
MEREDITH ROUDEBUSH-ALBAUGH, MSW, LICENSED CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER 93318