Binge Drinking Boom: COVID-19 and Alcohol

Stress and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic is driving a dangerous spike in alcohol consumption and binge drinking among Americans, especially women.

To manage COVID-19 quarantines and stress, many Americans have joked and even promoted on social media an escalation in their drinking habits. The problem is that far from a joke, alcoholism is a progressive disease and heavy drinking is a dangerous public health epidemic in the midst of a global pandemic.

Dangerous Drinking Data

New studies show a sharp rise in the amount of people turning to alcohol as a coping strategy during 2020, with the impacts causing significant health risks including an alarming rise in alcohol-related liver disease.

In fact, a Kaiser Family Foundation study shows a 30% to 50% national increase in hospitalizations due to alcohol-associated liver disease, most of which is cirrhosis, meaning end-stage liver scarring.

One study published by the Rand Research Corporation revealed that Americans drank 14 percent more in 2020 — the rate for women rose by 41 percent. And, the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America poll shows one in four adults (23 percent) reported drinking more alcohol to cope with their stress.

Another report issued by the American Medical Association, found a 54 percent increase in alcohol sales across the U.S. in March 2020, when lockdowns began. And, NPR reports that alcohol delivery services saw a 350 percent spike in sales in 2020.

 According to the National Institutes of Health, research shows significant increases in drinking, binge drinking and extreme binge drinking among women.

How Much Is Too Much?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), binge drinking is the most common and risky pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men — assuming the drinks are consumed within about two hours.

And, over time, heavy drinking can progress into a daily mental and physical need for alcohol that will impact your health beyond COVID-19. The health risks for heavy drinkers and alcoholics are very similar in danger and diagnosis.

The health risks of binge drinking include unintentional injuries such as drownings and alcohol poisoning, violence, sexually transmitted diseases, poor pregnancy outcomes, fetal and infant damages, chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, digestive problems, cancer, learning and memory problems, mental health issues, social challenges and death.

Binge drinking carries serious health risks and can cause many health problems. In fact, a study by the CDC reported that between 2006 and 2010, binge drinking resulted in 88,000 deaths in the United States, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years and totaling a loss of 2.5 million years of potential life. The same report showed excessive drinking caused one in 10 deaths among working adults aged 20-64 years.

For women, a variety of health issues from alcohol misuse happen at a higher rate than men who consume the same amounts of alcohol. A 2018 study revealed more women than men visited emergency rooms with alcohol-related issues between 2006 and 2014. Plus, death from liver cirrhosis rose in women from 2000 to 2013. The risk of cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women than for men.

Considering the long-term health risks, the substantial rises in heavy drinking and alcoholism among women could have significant impact on our families, communities, healthcare system, even the economy.

Find Help for Alcohol Dependency

To learn more about the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction, talk to a professional trained in diagnosing and treating the disease. At Valley Hope, experts are available to answer questions in complete confidence 24/7.

Unsure if you or someone close to you has a problem with alcohol? The signs are not always as obvious as you might think. How do you know for sure? The medical and counseling staff at Valley Hope can provide a professional diagnosis and, if needed, recommendations for treatment.

If you feel like you need help immediately, the Valley Hope team is available 24/7 at (800) 544-5101. If you or a loved one are ready to stop drinking, visit valleyhope.org and begin your journey to a healthy, happy life in recovery today.