New variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus may continue to emerge, but most of us consider the pandemic a thing of the past. States continue to relax masking mandates, and international travel has become increasingly easier. Many people hung up their sweats and donned professional attire to return to work as well. There are a few things or habits that are not behind us, though, one of which is problem drinking.
During the pandemic alcohol consumption rose exponentially. In fact, scientists estimate that a one-year increase in alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic will cause 8,000 additional deaths from alcohol-related liver disease and 1,000 cases of liver cancer by 2040. According to data, deaths from alcohol consumption in the United States jumped 25.5% between 2019 and 2020, the first year of the pandemic. This is a dramatic increase, considering that the average annual percent increase in alcohol-related deaths was 2.2% between 1999 and 2017.
Consider the fact that online sales of alcohol increased 262% from 2019 to 2020. There was also a 41% increase in heavy drinking days among women since the beginning of the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic also took a heavy toll on people already struggling with addictions.
What Is Problem Drinking?
Alcoholism and problem drinking are not the same. Health experts characterize alcoholism as uncontrolled drinking and preoccupation with alcohol. To be clear, a glass of merlot after work or one beer with friends over Zoom happy hour isn’t problem drinking. Problem drinking involves heavy drinking or experiencing occasional problems from drinking. It’s important to note that those affected by problem drinking don’t typically have a history of severe alcohol dependence.
What Do The Studies Say?
Data from a national survey of American adults on their drinking habits revealed that excessive drinking increased 21% during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to this data, investigators simulated drinking trajectories and liver disease trends in all American adults. The findings noted that a sustained increase in alcohol consumption for more than one year could yield a 19-35% additional mortality rate.
One study included 832 people, 84% of which were female. During the pandemic, one-third of the group reported binge drinking, and 60% of the group reported increased drinking. Another study in 2020 included 1,540 adults, 57% of which were women. Over the course of the study, frequency in alcohol consumption increased by an average of 14% from 2019 to 2020. On average, 75% of all participants increased their drinking by at least one day per month. Additionally, one in five adults between the ages of 30-59 increased the frequency of alcohol consumption.
How To Cut Back On Drinking
Alcohol has damaging effects on your overall health. The damage goes beyond brain fog and hangovers. In fact, excessive alcohol intake contributes to increased rates of cognitive decline and mental health issues. In order to avoid issues like dementia, cut back your drinking by employing the following strategies.
Replace Your Drink
It’s common for people to drink alcoholic beverages because they are like treats. Don’t go searching for a cocktail when you can make other treat-like beverages. Herbal tea creations, mocktails with lemon, mint, and basil, or other drinks can be just as delightful and rewarding. Get creative and you’ll find that you don’t need the addition of alcohol.
Look At Expenses
Want to cut costs? Eliminate those $15 cocktails at the bar a few times a week and you’ll see that your account doesn’t deplete as quickly. Even if you don’t go out but you purchase wine, beer or liquor to take home, cutting back can help you save more money. Money talks for most people, so take a look at how much money you spend on booze and that may sway you to reduce your intake.
Avoid Trigger Places
There are locations, or even people, that you may associate with overconsumption. When you avoid these trigger places or people, you may be able to stay alcohol-free. If you find that you have to drink when you are around certain people, you may need to stop hanging out with them completely to improve your overall health.
Use Therapy Or Counseling
If you cannot kick the habit on your own, therapy or counseling may be the right approach. There are many motivational apps that help you improve your mental health and coping skills. Both apps and therapists can help you set goals that reduce your alcohol intake. There are even drink-tracking apps that allow you to monitor your alcohol use and offer positive reinforcement!