Covid: Turning to alcohol to help cope with lockdown could be a devastating mistake – Steve Cardownie

Last week I devoted my main column to the increase in online gambling which was partly attributable to the Covid-19 lockdown as people had more time on their hands and easy access to gaming sites on the internet in particular.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 7:00 am
Drinking alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns, make negative feelings harder to deal with and increase levels of anxiety (Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Alcohol consumption has also seen a marked increase which has been attributed to Covid-19 lockdowns and which is giving cause for concern amongst health care officials in that sector.

Research from the independent alcohol education charity Drinkaware found that 38 per cent of people on furlough and 33 per cent of parents with at least one child under the age of 18 are drinking more alcohol since the start of lockdown. This is much higher than the UK average where more than 22 per cent of people are drinking more since the lockdown began.

The survey also highlighted that 29 per cent of young adults aged between 18 and 34 are drinking at higher levels than when lockdown began.

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The data shows that people who are drinking more are also more likely to display concerning drinking habits such as having a drink on more days than usual, drinking earlier in the day, drinking alone, having difficulty stopping after just one drink or drinking to get through the day, all of which could indicate possible alcohol dependence and which have long-term implications for health.

When asked why they were drinking more, the top three reasons given were boredom (29 per cent), more time to drink (28 per cent) and spending more time drinking with partners/people in their household (24 per cent).

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While some people have reported that they are drinking less than usual due to the lockdown, it is those who are drinking more that have attracted the attention of health bodies as they make efforts to deal with the issue.

Alison Douglas, of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Many people drink alcohol to relax, forget their problems and combat feelings of stress, but as many people are seeing, it’s not always the best coping mechanism. As well as affecting our sleep, drinking alcohol can make it more difficult to manage our negative thoughts and feelings and increase our levels of anxiety. And if you need support, there is lots available online and by phone, including from We Are With You and Alcoholics Anonymous who are running virtual support groups.”

Establishing a link between alcohol and Covid-19, the World Health Organisation issued a statement stressing that “heavy alcohol use is a risk factor for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), one of the most severe complications of Covid-19”.

Whilst the majority of us enjoy a drink, particularly when consumed at a bar in a social setting, there are also some who are having real difficulty with drinking alcohol in a moderate manner, sometimes with devastating effects for the individual concerned as well as for friends and family.

The Covid-19 regulations, particularly lockdowns, have compounded this problem but hopefully those that need help can find it.

Drinkaware, for instance, has an “online self-assessment” that can help identify whether someone should be concerned about how much they drink.

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