Publishing date: Oct 10, 2021
By Blair McBride
Alberta is seeing a surge in alcohol-related illnesses that can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say.
Mental and behavioural disorders resulting from alcohol use as well as alcohol-related depression and withdrawal are among the few non-COVID causes of hospital admission that have increased in the province since March 2020, says Calgary physician Dr. Eddy Lang.
An article co-written by Lang that was published in the medical journal PLOS ONE in June revealed alcohol consumption rose from the fifth-highest cause of hospitalization in the province to the third during the first six months of the pandemic.
Alcohol-related illnesses accounted for 3.46 per cent of hospital admissions between March and September 2020, up from 2.65 per cent in that timeframe the previous year.
“Considering the number of hospitalizations we have in Alberta, that’s a significant increase,” Lang said, attributing the rising drinking rates to heightened feelings of pandemic anxiety.
“There’s been lots of lost employment and family separation. We know that people are managing that with alcohol and cannabis. That’s going to manifest with people going overboard,” he said. “Alcohol is like gasoline on the fire of mental illness. If you’re already depressed you might think alcohol will make you feel better but in the long run it makes things worse because it contributes to suicidal thoughts.”
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