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Americans are drinking more amidst global pandemic

As the pandemic continues to rage around the world, Americans have taken to the bottle to find relief. According to a Neilson report from June, people are ordering 27 percent more alcohol at home since the start of the crisis. However, experts warn that any relief from the pandemic, felt after intake of alcohol, is temporary.

According to Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, head of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), higher alcohol misuse was observed in areas that were hit the hardest by the pandemic. These areas had to deal with the impact of the pandemic in the shape of higher unemployment rates, financial instability, professional instability and the loss of loved ones. In this scenario, it was expected of the residents to feel the need for a drink or two or a couple of beers to supposedly “cope” with the issues, never seen before.

Can drinking alcohol really help cope with anxiety and stress?

Even though alcohol affects the body and brain differently, it definitely does not help cope with anxiety, stress or any other negative emotions. What really happens is that alcohol blocks the neurotransmitters in the brain slowing a person’s reflexes and blocking the messages that the brain sends to the body. It relaxes the brain and the body, providing a perceived relief from the uncomfortable emotions. This is the reason why it is tempting to reach out for alcohol during times of stress.

According to Dr. George F. Koob, Director, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), any increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is a “cause for concern”, especially if that increase is related to an attempt to cope with negative emotions. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption seems to be the easy way out. However, people suffering from an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or any mental health disorder, like anxiety or depression, should be especially cautious about turning to alcohol for relief.

Using alcohol to deal with emotional discomfort can become a vicious cycle. Alcohol leaves one feeling more miserable once the buzz wears off. This demotivates a person encouraging them to drink again and this time drink more. Slowly, alcohol consumption increases turning into abuse and dependency.

How much alcohol is too much?

A standard drink in the U.S. is equivalent to 0.6 ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol. Usually, this amount of alcohol can be consumed if one has:

  • 12 ounces of an alcoholic drink that has 5 percent alcohol content, like beer
  • 8 ounces of an alcoholic drink that has 7 percent alcohol content, like malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of an alcoholic drink that has 12 percent alcohol content, like wine
  • 5 ounces of an alcoholic drink that has 40 percent alcohol content, like any distilled spirits including rum, whiskey, vodka, gin, etc.

As per the recommendations released by the U.S. dietary guidelines, men should have no more than 14 standard drinks in a week and women nomore than seven. However, considering how alcohol is fast becoming a health hazard, experts have suggested that this limit should be cut by half.

In spite of the fact that the U.S. dietary guidelines recommend a safe limit of alcohol usage, there is no safe limit. Even one drink creates “cravings”, prompting the person to consume more. Medically also it has been proven that with time the body needs more volume of alcohol to create the same feeling of buzz.

Seeking help for alcohol misuse

Excessive intake of alcohol is linked with various health complications, including heart trouble and cancers of the colon, liver and breast. As per the statistics presented by the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 140 million Americans or were current users of alcohol.

Alcohol abuse affects a person both physically as well as mentally. It has several short- and long-term consequences that are borne by not only the individual drinking, but also his or her loved ones. Identifying the symptoms early on and seeking prompt medical advice can help manage the symptoms of AUD and treat the disorder.

If you or someone you know is suffering from AUD, get in touch with the 24/7 Recovery Helpline. Being a repository of resources on alcohol addiction, we can help you connect with certified alcohol detox treatment centers. You can either call our 24/7 alcohol addiction helpline 855-441-4405 or chat online with a representative for further assistance.

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