Drinking during the Pandemic
Alcohol has many faces; the good, the bad and the ugly.
Moderate drinking has been shown to have some health benefits. For example, it may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes (Mayo Clinic, 2019). However, drinking also has negative health impacts, such as impaired judgement, damage to the heart or liver, and the increased risk of stroke. And, chronic excessive drinking can cause alcohol dependence, heart/liver failure and even early death.
Research has shown that 25% of Canadians have been drinking more since the COVID-19 pandemic began (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 2020) due to three main factors; lack of regular schedule, stress and boredom.
Again, we can use alcohol for good. With moderate drinking, we can have some fun and relax time with other people. However, drinking during the pandemic has some risk factors, such as:
Using alcohol as a chronic stress reliever. It’s OK to drink to relieve stress occasionally, ex. having a few drinks on Friday night after work. However, when you start using alcohol regularly to cope with chronic stressors, such as stress from the ongoing COVID-19 situation, it is easy to develop alcohol dependence.
Lack of daily routine. You may have excessive free time at home because of the loss of your job or an unstructured/less structured daily routine due to working-from-home. Because of this lack of structure, you can start drinking any time of the day and may keep drinking just because you have nothing to do. This again makes it easy to develop alcohol dependency.
Drinking alone. People have less opportunities to have drink with others due to bars and restaurants being closed to drinking and social gatherings being restricted. Drinking by yourself may become problematic as people naturally drink more when alone as it is easy to drink more than you intend to because no one monitors how much you drink.
The key to enjoy drinking is to drink moderately and mindfully.
Drink within your own limits (the amount and pace)
Keep track of your own drinking instead of "auto-pilot drinking"
Drink to have fun, not to self-medicate against negative emotions
Be extra mindful when drinking alone
Avoid drinking with a heavy drinker
For more details on low-risk drinking, see “Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines” by Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2020-07/2012-Canada-Low-Risk-Alcohol-Drinking-Guidelines-Brochure-en_0.pdf
Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (2020, April). CCSA March Omni Summary Report https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2020-04/CCSA-NANOS-Alcohol-Consumption-During-COVID-19-Report-2020-en.pdf
Mayo Clinic (2019, October 19) Alcohol Use: Weighing Risks and Benefits. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551
About the author of the article:
Naoto Suzuki, MC, Registered Psychologist
Naoto is a registered psychologist in Alberta who currently works for the Airdrie Counselling Centre. If you would like to see Naoto’s profile or book an appointment with him, please click on the link below.