Doctors warn against excessive drinking during the pandemic

Doctors warn against excessive drinking during the pandemic

Written by Timothy Huzar on November 3, 2020 — Fact checked by Jessica Beake, Ph.D.

Doctors have warned that people in the United States may be drinking excessively as a way to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.


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In a new viewpoint article, two doctors have warned that more people in the U.S. may be turning to alcohol as a way of coping with the “myriad stressors” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The article, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, proposes a series of interventions to try to minimize this behavior and better support people with alcohol use disorder.

Stay informed with live updates on the current COVID-19 outbreak and visit our coronavirus hub for more advice on prevention and treatment.

Coping strategy

It is well documented that drinking alcohol is one way that people cope with stressful situations. For example, research has shown that in the U.S., people tend to drink more alcohol following terrorist attacks.

Furthermore, if a person has alcohol use disorder, they are more likely to use alcohol to cope with the stress of a traumatic event.

In this context, the current COVID-19 pandemic is a particular cause for concern. The authors of the current article point out that rather than being a single event, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are prolonged over time, potentially exposing people to ongoing trauma.

Further, the pandemic has caused various potential stressors that a person may cope with by drinking alcohol.

As well as the catastrophic effect on people’s health and the loss and grief experienced by many, the pandemic has also disrupted economies and social and cultural life, threatening people’s jobs, disrupting their interpersonal support structures, increasing barriers to health care, and forcing many people into isolation.

Before the pandemic, researchers had noted that people in the U.S. were tending to drink more. This was particularly the case for females.

Recent research suggests that people in the U.S. increased their alcohol consumption in the early phase of the pandemic. This is in line with similar findings from studies in the United Kingdom and Australia.

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