Alcohol consumption is increasing rapidly during epidemics, especially in women

As soon as he got out of the CVS and saw the liquor store on the street, Dinah felt a restless pulse in his ears. Having lost his job during the epidemic, he would have had enough time to run errands. But he was shaken by his sense of purpose, unable to shake how frustrated he felt. And the liquor store was exactly where she left off. A small bottle of vodka won on his recovery.

In an era of epidemics, uncertainty lingers in the air. Now, new data shows that during the Covid-19 crisis, American adults have seen a sharp increase in alcohol consumption and excessive alcohol consumption on more days each month. Heavy drinking has increased, especially among women.

The study, released by RAND Corporation on Tuesday and backed by the National Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), compares adult drinking habits from 2019 to the present. In a survey of 1,540 adults in a nationally representative panel, participants were asked about their shift in consumption between the first peak of the virus, between spring 2019 and spring 2020.

Based on the results, experts say they are concerned about how people can choose to ease the pain and loneliness caused by the epidemic.

“The extra intensity is surprising,” Michael Pollard, the study’s lead author and a sociologist at RAND, told ABC. “People’s frustration increases, anxiety increases, [and] Alcohol use is always a way to cope with these feelings. But frustration and anxiety are also the result of drinking; It’s this reaction loop where it only exacerbates the problem that it is trying to overcome. “

Between 2019 and now during the epidemic, both men and women noted an increase in the frequency of their binge drinking episodes, five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in a few hours. For women, that count halved.

“Raising the average in that way means that some people are actually increasing their binge drinking,” Pollard said. “It can always be an issue to ignore, especially for women, but it’s a real concern.”

Studies show that not only has consumption increased, but respondents also say they have experienced more adverse effects as a result of their drinking.

Respondents were presented with 15 possible negative outcomes and were asked to identify which was true for them. There were no yes-or-no choices, “I’m unhappy with my drinking,” “I’ve felt guilty or ashamed of my drinking,” “I’ve taken stupid risks while I’ve been drinking,” and “I’ve been drinking my family.” Injured. “

From 2019 to 2020, the average number of 15 questions that women answered “yes”, from two years last year, to more than three during the epidemic. In 2019, men answered “yes” to an average of four questions, compared to about five in 2020.

Dr. Director of NIAAA. “911 has a history of events like Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes and other disasters, then people drink more after trauma,” George Kube told ABC. George Kube told ABC. “Alcohol is a very effective pain killer. But when it is worn, it comes back to avenge the pain.”

Dean, 42, has been working to get his drinking under control for the past seven years. Now he’s back on track, but the epidemic has made it harder than before.

“It got to an issue when everything was combined, and I didn’t know what to do,” Dinah said. “When you’re in recovery, you should say you shouldn’t separate, and that’s what we’re told to do now. We drink to hide from emotions, to hide from life. We tend to separate, especially when addicted. It’s really advanced. Now people are left alone at home. And that presents a real challenge. “

“While we’re doing well, for someone in recovery who is doing really well, our monsters come back with stress, and can break again,” Kube said.

Sarah Hapolah, a writer and alcoholic recovery whose best-selling memoirs, “Blackout: Rimming the Things Rimming to Forget”, addressed her substance abuse, and was candid about the conflict and how to keep people discreet and calm between shutting down. Is. .

Hepola told ABC, “The world has taken away the rest of the methods of remedy – and so you have this one thing and a kind of evil temptation in it,” Hepola told ABC. “I was called by the sound of a romantic doom – going to the liquor store for ‘supply’ – like it was a camping trip. And it was like this. I was going on a camping trip out of life.”

It’s an exciting escape from reality, experts say, especially when that reality is starting to feel disruptive. That appeal, RAND’s data shows, seems especially strong for women.

Hepolah said, “This is a perfect medicine in many ways, especially for women.” You feel brave, strong, empowered, it’s a pain management system – and it’s a forgetfulness medicine, and many of us are in the place where we are right now. Don’t want to think too much. And as far as women are concerned, many of them are bearing the brunt of dealing with both work and preventing domestic stress, homework, childcare, home breakdown. Socially acceptable. “

Drinking and it’s not a negative thing in itself – it’s built into our social structure as a way to bring loved ones together on shared experiences. That has been true during epidemics, where zoom cocktail parties replace traditional gatherings.

During the shutdown, innovative ways to bring booze homes emerged, with online app sales connecting customers to liquor stores for home delivery. One such company, Driesley, told ABC that in the early days of the lockdown, they saw a 700-800% increase. Some of it has since been leveled, but they are still sitting at 350% growth from last year.

But with that unprecedented demand, comes the responsibility to mentally carry their product, said Liz Pequette of Driesley.

“While we’re terribly socially isolated, it’s important for a lot of people to keep in touch with our loved ones,” Paquette said. “But it can be a slippery slope. And so we are very careful with our communication and communication. We must make sure that we are not insuring alcohol. It should be used as a coping method. We do not glorify getting drunk. Shots don’t push. “

When they started seeing their sales snobball, Paquette said, they put a stop to their paid media spending – making sure they have both supply and secure messaging to meet the demand rush.

“As individuals in this company, and as an organization, it is important for us both to understand our role within this space and to ensure that we act as responsibly as possible,” Paquette said.

While alcohol becomes a crunch to eliminate unwanted pain, however, it does become a problem.

“This is a way to deal with stress,” Kube said, “but when you start drinking to fix something or not feel something, alcohol makes it worse. It becomes very insidious.”

As coronavirus began to spread in you this spring, and alcohol sales began to rise, the World Health Organization warned that alcohol use could potentially exacerbate health issues and risky behaviors.

Alcohol abuse poses unique risks in the current Covid-19 crisis, potentially making people susceptible to the disease, experts say.

“Acute alcohol consumption has historically been shown to increase the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome,” Kube said. Fluid builds up in the lungs, keeping them filled with enough air. Low oxygen oxygen reaches the bloodstream, depriving the organs of the need to function.

“While we should take extra care, this seems to be a particularly bad time for a damaged judgment when we have to pay more attention to our behaviors,” Pollard said. “There are real risks with lasting results.”

As a result, experts say this unprecedented crisis could offer new opportunities to rethink pain management.

“People can’t stop drinking because they don’t want to change their world,” Hapola said. “But now, the world has changed. And we’re here to see if we like it or not. So the question is, who do you want to be?”

If you or someone close to you needs help with a substance use disorder, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or, SAMHS Behavior Visit the treatment. Services locator.

Sonny Salzman and Eric Strauss of ABC News contributed to this report.