A tale of two pandemics:
As of late September 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID Data Tracker reported nearly 700,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus outbreak. Coronavirus has taken a terrible toll globally, and it is easy to see why the pandemic has been at the forefront of public attention since the first shutdowns happened in March 2020.
The other pandemic? Every year, nearly 100,000 people in the U.S. die from the effects of alcoholism. Unfortunately, most people see it as less of a pandemic and more of a social issue best left ignored unless it directly affects them.
One of the leading causes of unintentional death in the country, the CDC reports more than 95,000 Americans die each year from the excessive use of alcohol. These include long-term effects such as heart and liver disease, as well as short-term effects including injuries from falls and auto crashes.
Unfortunately, one of the lesser-discussed effects of the coronavirus pandemic is its apparent fueling of risky alcohol consumption, creating a vicious circle where one pandemic fuels the other.
COVID Stress Makes People Drink …
In December 2020, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore published a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health examining behaviors around alcohol during the pandemic. The study examined the alcohol use of over 800 U.S. adults recruited from social media sites including Facebook and Instagram.
Respondents were asked about their drinking habits during May 2020. One-third of the respondents reported they engaged in binge drinking; 7% reported extreme binge drinking.
As for the reasons driving their alcohol consumption, nearly half of the study’s participants reported increased stress as the cause for their drinking, along with slightly smaller percentages citing boredom and the increased availability of alcohol. Additionally, those respondents who said they experienced stress during the pandemic reported they drank more over an increased number of days.
These findings echo those of a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in July 2020. Half of the poll’s respondents said they experienced “adverse effects” due to COVID-related stress, with 12% saying they engaged in increased alcohol or drug use.
The dangers of excessive drinking are well-known. Unfortunately, the nature of COVID increases the risks beyond diabetes, strokes and heart disease.
… But Drinking Can Make COVID Worse
The Mayo Clinic states it clearly: Drinking alcohol does not protect you from COVID-19. In fact, it can make it worse.
How? Among other effects, alcohol essentially ties up the body’s immune system and prevents it from engaging in other tasks. In an article from the Cleveland Clinic, K.B. Narayanan Menon, M.D., warns alcohol can weaken the immune system, making the drinker more susceptible to infections like COVID-19. Dr. Menon also warns the body prioritizes breaking down alcohol above other functions, such as fighting off diseases.
Case in point: pneumonia. In 2015, a study published in Alcohol Research: Current Reviews opened by stating “clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia.” Pneumonia is among the more frightening complications of COVID-19, sometimes developing into acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which can be deadly.
It’s easy to see why people turn to alcohol when times are stressful; alcohol’s been used as a sedative for centuries. That’s a mistake – although alcohol’s sedative qualities seem like a good choice for someone feeling overwhelmed, overuse of it can actually make things worse.
Fortunately, there’s better ways to destress during COVID.
Finding Positive Outlets Without Doomscrolling
The CDC offers several helpful suggestions which actually work for fighting stress, but in today’s extremely online culture there’s one thing anyone feeling overwhelmed should avoid:
It’s easy to fall into the trap of endlessly scrolling through social media and the web while obsessing about bad news and one’s inadequacies. However, doomscrolling is a quick way to become even more stressed out and overwhelmed during a time of crisis.
Sleeping well, eating healthily, and finding other positive outlets are all great ways to avoid stress while avoiding the traps of harmful substances and behaviors. An even better way? Sober living.
Joining an intentional community helps you focus on crafting a successful, long-lasting recovery. Plus, being able to live with like-minded people who share your sober lifestyle lets you craft positive, effective relationships which’ll help you throughout your entire recovery.
SoberLivingNearYou.com puts thousands of sober living arrangements at your fingertips. Our directory is your tool to find the ideal sober living solution for your individual needs.
Even if you find yourself in a vicious circle of anxiety and addiction, there’s still a way out. SoberLivingNearYou.com will help you find it. Talk to an agent today at 866-940-0439.