Most Americans are staying at home and practicing “social distancing,” in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19. They’re also stocking up on groceries, toilet paper and, as it turns out, record amounts of booze. Around the third week of March, the market research firm Nielsen reports online sales of alcohol were up by 234 percent.
The alcohol industry is going gangbusters, seeing a 55 percent spike in sales from this time last year. Nielsen also noted:
- Spirits and liquor sales increased by 75 percent
- The sale of wine has seen a 66 percent increase
- Beer sales are up 42 percent
- Ready-to-drink cocktails are up by 106 percent
Much of the increase in alcohol sales is being attributed to the fact that bars and restaurants are closed. This meaning people will have to do all of their drinking at home for the time being.
It’s difficult to quantify whether or not people are actually consuming more alcohol during this pandemic. Some experts worry the forced social isolation will take its toll on people’s mental health. They are especially concerned about those who already struggle with alcohol and substance abuse issues.
This is why some people have chosen not to drink right now. A self-proclaimed casual drinker, Catherina Hurlburt who lives in Northern Virginia, explained her choice to abstain from alcohol according to NPR News.
“I just wanted to keep a clear head and not medicate any sort of anxiety that’s going on about the closures and uncertainty,” Hurlburt said.
Alcohol and Our Mental Health
Certainly, not everyone who drinks has a problem with alcoholism or alcohol dependency. However, consuming more alcohol than normal can lead to a number of unwanted and unpleasant consequences.
Heavy alcohol consumption can actually alter the brain’s natural chemistry. It can deplete stores of serotonin, a neurochemical associated with mood, sleep and overall well-being. Over time, this can lead to substance-induced disorders.
“Symptoms of substance-induced disorders run the gamut from mild anxiety and depression to full-blown manic and other psychotic reaction,” according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Some of the symptoms associated with alcohol induced depression and anxiety may include:
- Difficulty sleeping or feeling tired, a lack of energy
- Troubles concentrating
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Joint and body pain, as well as headaches
Though consuming alcohol might make people feel better in the short-term and is generally okay in small doses. Consuming too much alcohol on a regular basis is physically and mentally unhealthy. This is especially true if it becomes a necessary element in order for someone to relax, unwind or cope with their problems.
Staying Healthy during a Pandemic
While the nation’s healthcare institutions and professionals are trying to manage the crisis the coronavirus is causing, staying as healthy as possible is a way to support our country’s physicians and nurses.
This effort can take many different forms, depending on a person’s environment, but there are simple measures everyone can take. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, exercising a little each day even if it’s inside the home and getting a restful seven to eight hours of sleep a night will all go a long way for good mental and physical health.
For people in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, online support groups offer a good way to stay in contact with other sober, like minded individuals. Lastly, it’s never too late to get help for addiction. Even during a pandemic, residential treatment facilities are deemed “essential businesses” and now, as society has had to slow its normal pace, may be the perfect time to start the process of recovery.