Is another public health crisis brewing beneath the coronavirus pandemic?
New research shows that Americans are turning to alcohol to soothe their nerves while in isolation. US sales of alcoholic beverages skyrocketed by 55 percent in the week ending March 21, according to Nielsen data. Compared to the same time last year, liquor sales rose by 75 percent, wine by 66 percent and beer by 42 percent.
Social-media feeds, too, are soaked with booze: Across the country, people are quipping about “quarantinis” and posting screenshots of their Zoom happy hours with co-workers.
“All that I’m seeing online is people in robes with glasses of wine, and memes about people drinking cases of wine,” says Katie Kennedy, an elementary school teacher from Brooklyn.
The newly sober 25-year-old — who “came out of rehab during the end of the world” — finds the sudden uptick in drinking triggering and troubling.
“It’s glamorized,” says Kennedy, who is currently living in a sober house in Williamsburg.
Of course, there’s a reason why the world seems to be glugging drinks with reckless abandon during lockdown.
“We base our socializing around alcohol,” says Ben Riker, 39, from Oneonta, N.Y. Riker has been sober for five years, and works for an addiction-recovery network called Friends of Recovery-New York. Even though he doesn’t drink anymore, he understands why people are desperate to hold onto a normal-feeling social ritual when everything else is topsy-turvy.
But when does taking the edge off start to become a problem?
To figure it out, count the empty cans — or bottles.
“If your nightly two beers becomes four beers, you may be self-medicating,” says psychologist Peter Provet, the president and CEO of Odyssey House, a network of in-patient rehab facilities in New York. Increased tolerance, and intense hangover symptoms like sharp headaches, nausea and sweating, could indicate a bigger problem than cabin fever, too.
Another red flag? Booze becomes the focus.
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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders or funders.