Germany: Rising Risk For New Addiction Wave
As lockdown measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 continue in Germany, the challenges of the situation are leading to a rising risk of a new addiction wave.
Alcohol is not a healthy coping mechanism to use during COVID-19, as the World Health Organization has emphasized. Despite this, more and more Germans are using alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism to deal with work from home and childcare pressures, as well as stress and anxiety about the future.
New data shows that Germans are buying more alcohol during the pandemic than before.
The market research institute GFK reported the following data, comparing the period between end of February to end of March 2020 with the same time period in 2019:
- Wine sales increased by 34%.
- Clear spirits sales increased by 31.2%.
- Mixed alcoholic beverage sales grew by 87.1%.
- Sherry and port wine sales rose by 47.5%.
- Beer sales increased by 11.5%.
While it takes a while for people to usually realize they may have a problem, addiction counselors are already getting more calls for help as people’s behaviours become problematic. Relatives are also calling in more as they notice their parents’ or spouse’s addictive behaviours.
The trend is concerning for Germany, as the country is already a heavy alcohol consuming country. Alcohol harm is a heavy burden on the country and already drains massive resources. According to the DHS Yearbook Addiction 2020,
- around 74,000 deaths each year are caused by alcohol consumption alone or the combined use of tobacco and alcohol, and
- the annual economic costs of alcohol harm amount to €57 billion. But government revenue only reaches a tiny fraction of this with €3.2 billion from alcohol taxation every year.
With the burden on the healthcare system and resources with the pandemic, an increase in addiction could lead to more loss of life in the country.
An additional problem is that physical support groups for alcohol use disorder and addiction are now not possible to be conducted with physical distancing measures in Germany. But self-help groups which provide connection to people in recovery and those who want to change their alcohol consumption are important services and resources for anyone in recovery, in need of help with their alcohol problems or struggling to quit alcohol use. The likely increase in alcohol use problems and the lack of support for people and communities with alcohol problems make for a bad combination as consequences of this current public health crisis and decades of neglect of alcohol harm by the German government.
Norddeutscher Rundfunk: “Alcohol in corona times: is the risk of addiction increasing?” [Translated from German]
Spiegel Online: “Germany in the Corona frenzy” [Translated from German]
For further reading:
The following article by Movendi International provides some virtual tools and online support groups available for those who need the help.
The WHO has also provided some useful psycho-social and mental health advise for people to cope healthily with the current challenges.
The German government needs to take urgent action as advised by the WHO to restrict access to alcohol and to reduce the avoidable burden on healthcare so that more lives can be saved.