Spending an overwhelming amount of time social distancing in quarantine has led many Americans to drink more than usual.
General anxiety about the current state of the world and the future has made drinking an appropriate method of stress for many.
And drinking certainly seems to be on everyone's mind, with social media posts promoting the "quarantini" and many states having declared liquor stores “essential businesses.”
According to NBC New York, alcohol sales spiked 55 percent when stay-at-home orders went into effect. A study found on Alcohol.org found one in three people admitted to drinking more while in isolation.
It’s very easy for that one glass a day to turn into several to take the edge off while dealing with the “new normal,” which is why the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has created a new digital tracking tool (amongst other helpful tools) that will help you keep track of how much alcohol you’ve consumed.
“I think people just say, 'Well, what’s there to do? We’re in quarantine,'" said New York City-based licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez.
“It’s kind of like a forced vacation – might as well have a drink. And before you know it, it's not just a drink; it's a couple of drinks," he added.
While there’s nothing wrong with having a drink here or there, it can become a slippery slope. Dr. George Koob, the director of the NIAA, says it’s important to look for warning signs to determine if you’re developing an alcohol addiction. There’s even an online quiz you can take to evaluate symptoms.
Koob said that relying on alcohol could build up a tolerance and lead to alcoholism
“Your social interactions suffer. You notice you’re starting to become late to your morning meeting. You don’t feel good when you’re not drinking,” Koob said, adding, “that’s a pretty good sign you’re starting to develop a form of dependence."
“When the alcohol wears off, those negative emotions come back with force, and they can drive even further drinking,” Koob said.
Excessive drinking also affects the body’s immune system and prevents it from fighting off infections such as coronavirus.
"When consumed in excess, alcohol can cause damage to immune cells in the lungs, upper respiratory system, and the gut. This, in turn, poses a higher risk for the chance of developing diseases like pneumonia or tuberculosis, making you more susceptible to COVID-19," says Dr. Niket Sonpal, an internist and gastroenterologist in New York City.
During this time of uncertainty, it’s important to have a ritual. Experts suggest structuring your day so that you don’t leave room for alcohol and filling it with engaging activities such as online exercise classes, cooking classes, or re-connecting with friends and family members.
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