Americans Are Drinking More and Should Cut Back

Studies have repeatedly shown that a little wine may help the heart. A large study published last year found that a small amount of alcohol could help brain health for people following the Mediterranean diet. However, excessive drinking damages the body and increases your risk of a fall or other injury. While a little alcohol may be beneficial, other studies have found evidence that has suggested total abstinence is best. We’ve always said it’s a choice you make with your doctor depending on your health goals, medications, preferences and beliefs.

In April, a spike of alcohol sales around the world left health care professionals concerned. High levels of alcohol consumption can damage our immune systems and leave us at higher risk for infections. A new poll shows that adults over 30 have increased their alcohol intake by 14 percent. On every level, the drinking has increased: people are drinking on more days of the week, drinking more drinks at one time and reporting getting drunk more frequently.

We’ve had anecdotal information about people buying and consuming more alcohol, but this is some of the first survey-based information that shows how much alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic,″ said Dr. Michael Pollard, a lead author of the study. ″Alcohol consumption can have significant negative health consequences, so this information suggests another way that the pandemic may be affecting the physical and mental health of Americans.”

Women are drinking far more heavily than they usually do — but still, less than men do. The researchers say it’s essential to examine how our alcohol use changes after the pandemic is over. The researchers also wrote, “health systems may need to educate consumers through print or online media about increased alcohol use during the pandemic and identify factors associated with susceptibility and resilience to the impacts of COVID-19.”

We agree. The use of alcohol puts people at a heightened risk of COVID-19. “Quarantinis” may seem like a great stress release, but having them every day can take a toll on your health. Instead, try reaching for something healthy like a glass of seltzer water with fruit in it! If it’s something outside of your day-to-day drinks, it might feel like a treat without the alcohol or high calories of a boozy drink. When it seemed like the pandemic might pass in a matter of months, the drinking might have seemed like a short-term phase. But COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere, and neither is our drinking. Getting back to your older habits — or a goal you were working toward — is healthier.

Doctors worry that COVID-19 has normalized day drinking and alcohol abuse as we have started drinking more and more in our home. “This cultural idea that alcohol is a good way to deal with problems is disheartening,” said Dr. Adriane dela Cruz, a psychiatrist who specializes in drug and alcohol addiction. “If it’s one drink, it’s totally fine. But I’m worried when drinking becomes the routine, go-to solution.”

She pointed out that, with how advanced telemedicine has become over the last six months, getting help has become easier than ever. If you need help handling the pandemic’s stress — or think you have a problem with drinking — you should reach out to your primary care doctor today. They can help you get the support and treatment you need.
September 30, 2020
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