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The pandemic has caused an uptick in alcohol addiction, especially among women.

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, alcohol sales sharply increased, according to a report by the University of Utah Health. In April 2020, alcohol sales increased by 55% over the previous year. Everyday life suddenly became much more stressful, and people turned to the easiest avenue of self-medication — alcohol consumption. Women saw an especially dramatic rise in alcohol abuse to cope with the fear and uncertainty of a global pandemic.

A separate report released in September by the RAND Corporation indicates that the risk for women continues. COVID-19-related shutdowns have sparked a 41% increase in heavy drinking, defined by at least four drinks in the span of a few hours, per the RAND study.

Why Alcohol Use Is a Bad Idea During COVID

It’s important to understand the effect of alcohol on your body, especially how it impacts your ability to fight off diseases such as COVID-19. A study by Wakefield University states that even small amounts of alcohol can affect your immune system and also have an impact on your relationships, especially if you are stuck at home with loved ones during a shutdown.

This doesn’t just impact individuals who have an alcohol use disorder. Negative effects ripple out to jobs, relationships and overall health for those who turn to heavy drinking as a way to cope with stress. It’s important to have information regarding the impact of alcohol on your health during the global pandemic. This can help you make healthier choices for your immune system, family and well-being.

Social Distancing Makes It Harder to Get Help

Social distancing creates additional strain on men and women in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two of the most important support systems for those fighting to stay sober and drug-free. This extends to those who have recently developed a dependence on drugs or alcohol. NA and AA, for example, depend on churches, libraries and other public places to host their meetings. With everything on lockdown due to coronavirus, it’s difficult or impossible for these groups to meet regularly.

So, what can you do to remain sane and sober during the pandemic? Look for AA groups that have moved their meetings to zoom or other digital formats. It can’t replace the presence of another caring human being. However, virtual support can help those on the edge hang on between meetings. if you don’t already have some basic computer skills, it’s important to become tech-savvy enough to use Zoom, Facebook or other platforms that allow you to interact with your peers in recovery.

If you don’t have Internet but have a cell phone, you can still interact with your sponsor. For those with a new alcohol use disorder due to the pandemic, it’s important to connect with local AA groups or a therapist who can provide telehealth therapy sessions.

Online Support for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has published suggestions for how to find online support during the pandemic. Mutual support groups are online groups hosted by reputable organizations. They can help you cut back or eliminate your dependence on alcohol and help you find better ways to cope with the stress of COVID-19 physical distancing and stay-at-home restrictions.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine suggests joining online support groups and podcasts that provide immediate support.

While online groups are a staunch pillar of support, they cannot replace the care of a professional clinician. You can also find a treatment counselor online for one-on-one therapy. If you feel that your alcohol use disorder has risen to the level of addiction, it may be time to seek the help of a reputable recovery program for detox and recovery in a supervised, supportive environment.