Reports of physical, social, intraper-

sonal, impulsive, and interpersonal prob- lems related to drinking also rose 39 per- cent among the women surveyed by RAND, “which is indicative of increased alcohol-related problems independent of consumption level for nearly 1 in 10 women,” the researchers said. “In addition to a range of negative

physical health associations, excessive alcohol use may lead to or worsen existing mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, which may themselves be increasing during COVID-19,” the re- searchers concluded.

Increases in drinking also self-report-

ed across most demographic categories, but especially among people ages 30 to 59 (19 percent) and non-Hispanic white people (10 percent). Data for the report was collected in

late May and early June, after most U.S. states had implemented COVID-19 phys- ical distancing protocols.

Other studies show increases According to the Blue Cross Blue

Shield COVID-19 National Pulse Survey, overall alcohol consumption has risen 23 percent since the pandemic began. And a recent survey by The Recovery

Village found that 55 percent of respon- dents reported an increase in past-month alcohol consumption. About 18 percent reported a significant increase, while an- other 36 percent reported an increase in substance use. Of these, • 53 percent said they were trying to cope with stress, • 39 percent were trying to relieve boredom, and • 32 percent were trying to cope with mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.

Jared A., a recovering alcoholic from

Oakland Park, Florida, who takes part in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, said that the social isolation associated with the pandemic has been particularly difficult for people in recovery from alcohol use disorder. “Twelve-step programs encourage service to others, making amends for harms done, admitting when we are wrong, and confessing our shortcomings to others,” he said. “Most of these are unobtainable in the isolation created by COVID-19.” Physical distancing rules have also hampered the ability for people in recov-

ery to attend AA meetings, Jared said. “Meetings are a place for newcomers to learn the steps and meet sponsors, a place where people make friends and gain support through the fellowship,” he said. “With most localities closing meet- ings, this important tool people depend on simply vanished. Online replacements became available, but to most of us they aren’t the same as face-to-face meetings,” he added. Dr. Dean Drosnes, medical director

of Pennsylvania-based Caron Treatment Centers, said that while his program saw an increase in admissions after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, COVID-19 has presented unique challenges compared to past disas- ters.

“The difference with COVID is the

quarantine element,” he said. “Isolation, the lack of structure, and the inability to turn to one’s healthy coping options… due to the pandemic makes people incredibly vulnerable to distress.”

Economic turmoil, unemployment, disruption of home routines, and an unsettled political climate have all contributed to fear and stress that can trigger problem drinking, experts said.

“Combine anxiety, depression, and uncertainty with an ability to have booze delivered to your home via an app in less than an hour, and you’ve got a perfect pathway to increased alcohol consump- tion, and, for some, alcohol dependence,” Jeffrey L. Reynolds, PhD, president and CEO of the Family & Children’s Association in Long Island, New York, told Healthline. “Wine memes flooded social media sites, virtual happy hours started earlier and earlier in the afternoon, and the ‘quar- antini’ became the pandemic’s official beverage. At the same time, here in New York, hospital alcohol detox units closed to make way for COVID patients, and drug/ alcohol treatment centers closed or oper- ated at reduced capacity,” he said. “Many people are realizing now just

how much their drinking accelerated in the last 6 months, how it’s impacting their health and mental health, and they are struggling to get back to the office on a daily basis,” Reynolds added.

One potential consequence of the

“downstream health effects” of heavy drinking, including heart disease and re-


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