Alcohol & COVID-19 Quarantine
This pandemic has shaken our lives, families, and economy to the core. We have never experienced an event like this before. There are some unique trends that have emerged during state’s stay at home orders. One that is not perhaps surprising is the consumption and sales of alcohol. Alcohol sales have shifted away from small batch breweries and local craft breweries have felt the squeeze. However, alcohol sales from the grocery store, which are larger packed with beers from larger breweries (Miller, Coors). Nielsen reports that total alcohol sales the first full week of April 1, 2020 grew 26.2%, when compared to the same time a year ago. Additionally, online e-commerce sales of alcohol have risen by 243%. These astonishing figures point bring concerns about the reasons for using alcohol and potential problems that can arise from heavy drinking. We explore the reasons why drinking alcohol is up and what you can do about it to prevent a problem developing in the future.
Reasons for Increased Drinking:
It is common to see individuals purchase and consume alcohol at higher rates when stay at home orders are in place. Wilmington is a beach community and is accustomed to seeing a spike in alcohol sales and consumption around hurricane preparation.
- People Are Working From Home
Previously, many people would not drink until after they were done for the workday or perhaps met friends for happy hour. During the COVID-19 stay at home orders people are working from home in unprecedented numbers. They are no longer waiting until 5 pm or after they get home from work to drink alcohol. Additionally, the responsibility of showing up to work bright eyed and bushy tailed is not present. Feeling hungover the next day is not a problem when you’re working from home and attending meetings online.
- Coping with Alcohol
COVID-19 has evoked a trauma reaction from every person living through it. We have all experienced stress and often times it comes in waves. Alcohol is used to help people cope with the stress and fear of the pandemic. As the time goes on with stay at home orders, couples and families are likely experiencing increased conflict from sharing close quarters. It is an easy and quick way to numb the feelings for frustration, stress, anger, confusion or exhaustion.
- House Members and Friends Encouraging the Use
You thought that peer pressure was done in high school? Think again. Zoom happy hours are becoming a regular way to connect with loved ones and encourages imbibing during the event. House mates, spouses, or partners can greatly effect your own consumption as well. If a someone living in the house drinks alcohol it can be harder to turn down a drink or choose not to share in drinking.
Alternatives to Prevent an Alcohol Problem from Developing
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines moderate alcohol consumption as 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Binge drinking is defined by 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men on an occasion that increases the BAC to .08 or higher. Heavy alcohol consumption is defined as binge drinking on 5 or more days in past month. Research supports binge drinking and heavy drinking can increase an individual’s risk of alcohol use disorder.
Ways to Cut Down or Limit Alcohol
- Make a plan for after work something fun new and exciting
You may get excited when the postman drops off a package at this point. Try to find an activity or event that you can anticipate and look forward to. This will help keep you focused on an activity other than alcohol. Perhaps going for a walk on at a new nature path or walking your dog. Maybe challenge yourself to a new project around the house or a new craft. Plan in exercise after work. There are endless possibilities. It just takes some forethought and implementation.
- Put a reminder where alcohol is kept to ask yourself are you using because you’re avoiding or numbing a difficult emotion.
Alcohol is often people’s first line of defense for coping with difficult emotions. We need a reminder in the place where we keep alcohol to shock our system and encourage us to engage in other coping skills first. Perhaps this is a time where you need to learn how to cope without using substances. If you’re finding your toolbox of coping skills empty or lacking, it’s time to beef it up! Check out some new ways to cope.
- Advocate for the decrease alcohol in the home.
If that doesn’t work buy yourself a nonalcoholic beverage to consume while house mates are drinking. You want to be part of the “party” and feel included, especially during this time of social distancing. Choosing a different nonalcoholic drink to sip on will help you fit in while staying sober.
The pandemic is stretching each person’s ability to handle stressful situations and creativity. When you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, remind yourself this is a time of growth and change. Nothing is easy during growth and change. Keep your focus on nurturing yourself and mental wellness. Choose to limit your drinking and you will feel more energy and less guilt. You may also be taking actions to prevent increased drinking patterns after sty at home orders are lifted.