How Has COVID-19 Affected Rates of Alcohol Abuse in the United States?

Most Americans drink alcohol from time to time. According to 2019 research, over 85% of adults in the United States have had at least one drink in their lifetime.[1] Alcohol is prevalent in our culture and available in many social settings.

While having a beer after work, wine with dinner, or a cocktail at a celebration may be a normal way of life for many people in this country, sometimes alcohol use can become problematic. People may drink alcohol to help them cope with social discomfort or to manage the symptoms of stress, anxiety, or depression.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people faced a great deal of uncertainty and stress, and many turned to alcohol to cope. The result? Worsening mental health and a higher rate of physical health problems, including life-threatening ones.

If you or a loved one lives with alcohol abuse, it is essential to understand the impact of this condition on your health and wellbeing and to know what steps to take to put it in the past. For more information on starting a substance abuse treatment program, reach out to the Addiction Intervention specialists today.

Alcohol: How Much is Too Much?

According to the CDC, people can drink moderately without a negative impact on their health. For women, moderate drinking is one alcoholic drink per day. For men, it is two per day. An alcoholic drink is defined by the as:[2,3]

  • 12 ounces of beer (about 5% ABV)
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of spirits

Heavy drinking means having more than 8 drinks per week for women and 15 or more for men, and binge drinking means consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time.[4]

How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic brought new waves of anxiety, worry, and stress as people were faced with more uncertainty by the day. For many months, essential household items and food were sometimes difficult to find, children were home from school for long periods, and people were asked to work from home with little support or clear plan to return to the office.

Financial stress, isolation, and uncertainty added to an underlying concern about contracting the virus and getting sick. Many people already living with depression or anxiety experienced a worsening of their symptoms, and countless others struggled with their mental health.

Access to mental health care was limited throughout the pandemic, which left people to cope on their own more than they had to before. As a result, many turned to alcohol or drugs to help them cope with their anxiety or depression.[5]

The Connection Between COVID-19 and Alcohol Abuse

Research performed in 2020 suggested that alcohol abuse was on the rise even early in the pandemic, especially for women. All of the people in the study admitted to drinking more, and heavy drinking rose by 41% for women.

Mortality related to alcohol abuse also rose, especially in people aged 25 to 44.[6] The research shows that deaths related to alcohol use were higher than the CDC projected in 2020 and 2021. It found:

  • In 2020, alcohol use disorder-related deaths were about 25% higher than the CDC projected
  • In 2021, deaths were about 22% higher than projected
  • The increase in deaths was almost the same for men and women

Developing an alcohol use disorder puts people at increased risk of developing alcohol dependence or addiction. People who began drinking heavily or increased their drinking during the pandemic may live with lingering effects of it for years to come unless they get the comprehensive treatment and support they need to recover. It is essential for individuals and medical professionals to recognize the symptoms of alcohol abuse and seek treatment as soon as possible.

How Can I Move Forward After COVID-19 and Alcohol Abuse?

The first step in getting help for an alcohol use disorder is to recognize its symptoms. Some of the signs you are living with alcohol abuse include:

  • Needing to drink more to get the same effect
  • Drinking to cope with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, or to help with sleep
  • Having cravings for alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like shaking, sweating, or cravings if you don’t drink
  • Facing legal or financial trouble related to your drinking
  • Isolating or losing interest in relationships and hobbies because of drinking
  • Continuing to drink despite adverse consequences at work, in your relationships, or in other areas

If you are one of the millions of people who developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol or alcohol use disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic, effective treatment is available. An alcohol rehab program will give you the support and skills you need to overcome alcohol abuse and live the healthy, fulfilling lifestyle you choose.

The sooner you get help, the better the outcome is likely to be. Don’t wait another day to start your recovery journey.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you love requires an alcohol intervention or treatment for alcohol abuse, reach out to the Addiction Intervention specialists today.