European Expert Warns: Danger of New Wave of Alcohol Addiction
Professor Emanuele Scafato of the Italian Institute of Health has warned that several factors are combining leading to the normalization of consuming alcohol at home during the COVID-19 public health crisis, which might fuel another wave of alcohol use problems in Europe.
Across Europe but to different degrees in different countroes, there is an increase in alcohol sales and likely alcohol consumption since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. In many countries people buy much more alcohol in the off-trade, as on-trade sales have – logically – declined.
Prof. Scafato says that this state of social isolation and physical distancing is completely new. It means that more people are consuming alcohol alone, which reduces chances of social and self-control.
Why is this happening? What psychological process is taking place in our heads now and which ultimately leads to the purchase of alcohol? Is it an attempt to relieve stress or maybe seeking entertainment? Consuming alcohol like this has many side effects. Some people still have the option of cosnuming alcohol in the company of other household members, which is generally less risky, but in turn now they are likely to consume more than before. The same applies to food.
We move less and eat more and drink more alcohol. It is worst for people who already have alcohol problems. I also mean families in which there is a problem of domestic violence,” says Prof. Scafato, as per Polska Times.
In Italy, for example, the number of people detained by the police and being under the influence of alcohol has increased significantly. In short, people under the influence of alcohol are found to violate quarantine rules, this could include people infected with the novel coronavirus who should not leave their homes under any circumstances.
The current experience during the public health crisis might affect alcohol norms, consumption behavior and patters in European countries in the long run.
In Poland, for instance, people have begun to arrange online social gatherings for the purpose of alcohol consumption. But this is very risky, according to Prof. Scafato.
Under normal conditions, a bottle of vodka or wine would be enough for several people. When we make an online appointments, everyone must have a bottle, so we automatically drink more alcohol.
Therefore, absolutely do not treat these types of meetings as alcohol consumption in company. We really drink alone,” says Prof. Scafato, according to Polska Times.
In this context, banning the sales of alcohol – as some countries have done during COVID-19 – is an meaningful initiative. Alcohol is an immunodepressant and greatly weakens the human immune system. Numerous studies prove that alcohol worsens the body’s ability to produce the right response to infections or lung viruses.
At a time when we should be in the best shape possible, when we really need health and vitality, heavy alcohol use is simply contrary to common sense.
It is a pity that so many people do not understand it or do not want to understand it. Sometimes even absurd situations occur,” says the addiction expert.
For instance, in the end of March, the Italian association of wine producers issued a communication encouraging people to consume “moderate” amounts of wine that would supposedly protect against coronavirus infection. The idea was that wine could help disinfect the mouth and throat.
This is absolutely not true. Disinfecting properties are obtained with at least 63% alcohol. There was even one grappa producer in Italy who created a blend of a distillate with a popular carbonated drink and also tried to convince people that they would be able to disinfect with it.
I repeat, this is a completely false statement,” emphasizes Prof. Scafato.
Examples like this show that alcohol advertising and promotions are a very serious problem in Europe.
Ads encouraging to drink alcohol are the most popular on our continent. In my opinion, this is aggressive marketing. It had a huge impact on the increase in alcohol consumption, among others among women,” explains Prof. Scafato.
With all these factors coming into play, Prof. Scafato is worried that there will be more people with alcohol use problems in Europe after the pandemic.
The problem concerns the whole world, but in Europe the average alcohol consumption was already twice as high as elsewhere. That is why we Europeans are in the greatest danger,” warns the addiction expert.