What you’ll learn from this article:
- Heavy drinking can be a maladaptive coping skill for stress.
- Binge drinking increased significantly during the first four weeks of COVID-19 lockdowns.
- Some signs of binge drinking include blackouts and “needing” to drink because of stress.
- Alcohol misuse can impair immune function.
- Binge drinkers are at higher risk for severe or even deadly COVID-19 infections.
The one-year anniversary of the U.S. government urging Americans to stay at home for 15 days to slow the spread of the coronavirus has just passed. But most Americans have spent far longer than 15 days locked down due to the virus that has killed more than half a million people during that time, according to official numbers.
Some Americans are still under various stages of lockdown, with anxious state and local governments reluctant to risk allowing large gatherings indoors until the spread of the virus slows or we reach herd immunity.
Binge Drinkers Drank More Alcohol, More Often
A recent peer-reviewed study published in the “American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse” found that binge drinking during the first four weeks of lockdowns, from mid-March to mid-April 2020, increased significantly. The increases worsened each week the lockdown remained in place.
Thirty-two percent of study participants reported binge drinking during the time frame of the study, and they reported drinking more while locked down. Furthermore, there was a 19% increase in binge drinking episodes for each week the lockdowns continued.
Binge drinkers were 60% more likely to consume alcohol heavily — defined as five drinks in two hours for men and four for women — than non-binge drinkers. No data is available beyond the mid-April end date of the study.
Signs of Binge Drinking
So how do you know if a loved one may be struggling with the effects of binge drinking? Here are signs to look out for:
- Frequent oversleeping, missing work or school while appearing ill after first waking up
- Frequent blackouts or losing time/not remembering what they did while drinking
- Drinking early in the day
- Comments about “needing” a drink to get through a stressful time
- Saying they won’t drink on a particular day, then doing it anyway
- Appearing unresponsive after a drinking episode. (Get immediate medical attention if you witness this.)
Alcohol Can Increase COVID-19 Risk
One worrisome aspect of heavy alcohol consumption during the active spread of COVID-19 is that binge drinking can damage the immune system, which makes the risk of being infected and of getting a serious case of the virus much higher than that of other populations.
In addition, alcohol misuse can cause poor decision-making about COVID-19 mitigations like social distancing and mask-wearing, which can also increase the risk of infection.
Harris House can help with treatment for alcohol misuse. We offer alcohol rehab programs that can help you or a loved one with the struggle against substance abuse. Call us to learn about admissions today.