New data show that COVID-19-related anxiety, stress and pain could point to an increase in alcohol consumption as people are self-medicating instead of seeing a doctor amidst the pandemic.
Results from an RTI International survey show that the average daily alcohol intake increased from approximately 0.74 units of alcohol in February to 0.94 units in April in the United States.
“When you think about the current times, we’re going to see a lot of people suffering from post-traumatic stress due to the pandemic, which can be comorbid with alcohol use disorder.”
We know that social stressors are one of the most powerful ways to increase [alcohol use] behavior,” said Julia Chester, professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University.
So being anxious, being depressed, being stressed … means that you are basically more likely to participate in a behavior like [alcohol or other drug use] when you are in a negative emotional state…
… we’re going to see a lot of people suffering from post-traumatic stress due to the pandemic, which can be comorbid with alcohol use disorder.”Julia Chester, professor of psychological sciences, Purdue University
As people struggle to cope with the pandemic and its consequences, anxiety, stress and pain is compounded by the loss of health insurance for millions of people and the fear of COVID-19 infection on visits to the doctor.
New findings show that people are resorting to self-medication, often using alcohol.
A new survey of 3650 adults in the United States over the age of 21 years, conducted by the River Oaks American Addiction Centers in Florida, shows:
- 38% of Americans who were suffering from pain have avoided seeing a doctor out of fear of contracting COVID-19,
- One in five have used alcohol or non-prescription drugs to cope with anxiety during the pandemic, with West Virginia ranking highest at 29% and Wisconsin ranking lowest at 3%, and
- 14% reported consuming alcohol as self-medication for moderate pain.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended limiting alcohol availability during COVID-19 and lockdown measures. The WHO has also specifically issued guidelines to help protect people and communities, advising not to use alcohol to cope with the pandemic stresses and releasing psycho-social advice on healthy ways to cope.
This is because alcohol can increase chances of infection, decrease immunity, increase the burden on healthcare systems and emergency services as well as jeopardize physical distancing measures.
Purdue University: “Shaken and stirred: The relation between stress and alcohol“