COVID-19 in Scotland: Doctors Report Alcohol-Fueled Spike in Liver Damage
Doctors are warning that there could be an alcohol-fueled spike in liver disease coming in Scotland due to COVID-19.
According to the new report “Drinking alone: Covid-19, lockdown and alcohol-related harm” by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) retail alcohol sales in March increased in month-on-month volume by 31.4%.
More concerning is that according to the new report, one in five Scots who use alcohol daily reported consuming more than they used to before COVID-19.
The report also warns about a subgroup of people who could be developing high-risk patterns of alcohol use during COVID-19 lockdown.
The situation is worsened because hospitalisations for cirrhosis in patients with pre-existing chronic liver disease might be delayed due to the current pandemic.
Alcohol Focus Scotland says that the problem is further increased as some people are struggling to access support due to service cuts and changes. Due to the pandemic treatment and support services for alcohol use disorders run by the NHS or charities have been reduced, with staff deployed to the COVID effort, or services moved to phone or online help.
If people can’t get access to help now the problems will only continue to build which leads to poorer health outcomes for individuals and more pressure on our health services.
We need to be thinking now about how we ensure that services are able to offer people the help they need when they need it,” said Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, as per The Herald.
The report called for, alcohol warnings to be incorporated into COVID-19 public health messages and suggested increased use of tele-medicine video consultations to allow more people to access alcohol counselling and addiction treatment, and help doctors monitor long-term patients.
Dr Christopher Hand, a psychologist based at Glasgow Caledonian University, agrees further research is needed about alcohol harm during COVID-19 as relying on anecdotal data will lead to bias. He notes that there have been mixed findings about alcohol use during COVID-19. His own research involving 400 Scottish participants found that 7% were consuming a lot more alcohol while 37% were consuming a little more.
While sales have reportedly gone up, some people say their consumption increased, but it could have decreased for others due to closure of bars and restaurants as well as due to the slower pace of life.
It’s possible that COVID-19 may be adding fuel to a fire that was already burning. However, there is also evidence that it has allowed people the time and space to reset their [alcohol consumption behaviors], possibly by removing a number of stressors from daily life,” said Dr. Hand, as per The Herald.