Alcohol Consumption Surges Due to Isolation Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

By Nicole Arzt is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in providing psychotherapy for individuals, families, and groups struggling with substance use disorders and psychiatric illnesses.

Sober Recovery Expert Author


We're in strange times, and that's an understatement. We're anxious. We're concerned about our health, our job security, and our sanity. We're longing for dinners at our favorite restaurants. We're yearning for hugs with our best friends. And we don't quite know what the future has in store for us.

With many of us feeling isolated, some are turning to unhealthy coping skills to ease the loneliness. From the trendy 'quarantinis' to Zoom-based virtual happy hours, alcohol has become a hallmark staple during these unprecedented times.

We're in strange times, and that's an understatement. We're anxious. We're concerned about our health, our job security, and our sanity.

But what are the risks of this heavy alcohol consumption? And what do we need to know moving forward?

The Surge In Alcohol Purchases

Although the bars are closed, recent data reveals that alcohol sales were up 55 percent during the third week of March compared to data from last year. Some people may be merely stockpiling for the next few months. Others, however, might be on a risky path of problematic drinking.

Many companies and restaurants are now offering alcohol delivery. This option makes it easy and accessible for anyone to drink- you simply need a smartphone and credit card.

And while people may not be out and about drinking, they are pouring their own glasses at home- where it's much easier and cheaper, and you don't need to wait in any lines or pay any cover charges. Undoubtedly, this can be a dangerous combination.

The Dangers Of Isolation And Drinking

People who struggle with problematic substance use often hide their habit in front of others. Of course, some people publicly drink and embarrass themselves at every function. However, many others identify as "closet drinkers." In other words, they drink socially when out with others, but they continue the alcohol intake once they are home alone.

This trend is concerning during this pandemic. For example, loved ones may not know that you're struggling. You no longer see your support system. And while you may be connected through technology, you have the ability to "control" your contact with them. That means you have more opportunities to essentially "get away" with the habit.

Heavy Alcohol Consumption and Infection Risk

It's no secret that excess alcohol consumption can negatively impact the body's immune system. Both binge drinking and chronic, heavy drinking can predispose people to infection via depressing the immune system.

These factors may inadvertently increase the risk of contracting COVID-19. Likewise, if you do contract the virus, you may experience more complications.

At a time where the healthcare system is already so strained, it's more important than ever to keep your health optimal. That means eating properly, exercising, and getting enough sleep.

Final Thoughts

At least 70 percent of Americans report feeling stress over the COVID-19 outbreak. This stress is complex and multifaceted. We're all experiencing massive shifts in our routines and daily functioning. We don't have an "end date" for this timeline. Things may get worse before they get better.

With that in mind, drinking often only adds more problems to the existing stress. Subsequently, continuous numbing or escaping feelings often lead to more depression, anxiety, and shame.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, you can visit our directory of rehab centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak with a treatment professional.

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