These are strange days for everyone. The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation and we’re yet to see the full impact of the virus and accompanying lockdown.
There’s little doubt that the lockdown is affecting people’s behaviours in all sorts of ways and one of these involves the consumption of alcohol. It’s been widely reported that the sales of alcoholic beverages for home consumption have risen sharply.
While the closure of pubs and clubs might offset total consumption, it does seem that more people are drinking more alcohol overall. Around one in five drinkers (21%) surveyed by Alcohol Change UK said that they were drinking more frequently in lockdown, with 15% drinking more during each drinking session. 18% of daily drinkers said the amount they drank had increased since lockdown started.
Coronavirus lockdown could trigger serious drinking problems for some
According to alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware the combination of an increase in alcohol intake and factors such as continuing isolation could see a lasting change in drinking habits and trigger serious issues for some.
Drinkaware CEO Elaine Hindal said that drinking alcohol could easily become a habit for many people. She warned that things like drinking a bottle of wine in the afternoon or opening a beer while you worked from home could turn into something more serious.
Alcohol can make you more susceptible to Covid-19
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also moved to dismiss a “dangerous myth” that drinking strong alcohol kills the Covid-19 virus and called for access to alcohol to be restricted during lockdowns.
The organisation noted that drinking alcohol can actually make you more susceptible to the illness. It pointed out that excess consumption of alcohol was associated with a large number of diseases, health conditions and mental health disorders. Some of these underlying health conditions could make individuals more susceptible to Covid-19. One issue in particular is that alcohol can have a serious impact on the body’s immune system. This in turn could make the person more vulnerable to the effect of coronavirus and increase the risk of more serious symptoms, adverse outcomes and even death.
It said that people should take steps to moderate their drinking at the best of times, adding that it was even more important during the current pandemic.
Increased drinking has become something of a running joke online, with many memes and social media posts portraying it all as a bit of a laugh. For people with an existing alcohol addiction or a predisposition to developing one however, it’s no laughing matter. Alcohol can be just as debilitating as any drug addiction, contributing or causing a wide range of physical, mental health and social problems.
As a matter of fact, alcohol is not a useful way to deal with the stress of isolation and social distancing for anyone. It acts as a depressant, actually increasing anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
So whether you think you are in danger of developing a serious alcohol addiction or simply want to cut down your drinking during this period, what can you actually do about it?
Here are some tips to help you reduce the amount you drink and prevent alcohol addiction during lockdown…
Tips to help you control alcohol intake during lockdown
Drinkaware suggests the following five tips:
- Learn the low-risk guidelines that say adults should drink no more than 14 units per week
- Plan drink-free days in advance as this means you are more likely to stick to them
- Keep track of your drinking (Drinkaware has an app that could help)
- Stock up on alcohol-free options
- Use smaller glasses if you are drinking alcohol
The Alcohol Change UK survey also identified the ways some people reported they were trying to manage their drinking during lockdown.
- Planning completely (reported by 14% of those who had taken steps to control their drinking)
- Limiting the amount of alcohol they bought (9%)
- Cutting out alcohol completely during lockdown (6%)
- Looking for advice and information online (4%)
- Attending remote support groups (3%)
- Receiving remote counselling sessions on a one-to-one basis (3%)
- Monitoring alcohol intake using apps (2%)
Think about the future
We’re in an unprecedented situation right now and many people seem unsure how to deal with it. At some point we’ll come out of lockdown and it’s important to consider the impact that drinking patterns now could have on your future self. Many of us feel like we do not have control over our lives right now. This can be a trigger for drinking but, while you might not be able to control the lockdown and the wider Covid-19 outbreak, you can control your own reaction to it. Focus on the bigger picture, look ahead and consider who you want to be when all this is over.
Set boundaries on your own drinking
This could mean setting drink-free days, as suggested above, or limiting the amount you will drink at any one time – preferably within the low-risk guidelines. To help limit your overall consumption you could set additional boundaries such as not drinking when you are feeling stressed or down, only drinking with an evening meal or serving yourself in half pints, small wine glasses or measures with plenty of mixer.
Talk about it
If you feel you are spiralling, developing or returning to bad habits, you could try talking it over, either in person with friends or family members that you are in lockdown with, over the phone or via video chat. Alternatively, you can contact an organisation like Drinkaware or Alcoholics Anonymous, which is still holding virtual meetings online. Accessing the right help and advice is particularly important for people with existing addictions, whether they are drug users or addicted to alcohol.
Remember, you might be feeling isolated right now but you are not alone and there are people out there who are ready to help if they can.