It’s thought that growing alcohol consumption could have a more profound effect on alcohol use across the nation since the COVID-19 pandemic is lasting longer and is more widespread than other distressing events, McLean said in a news release.
“We hope this article will call attention to the pandemic’s effects on alcohol use and offer mitigating approaches to this under-recognized public health concern,” co-author Dawn E. Sugarman, Ph.D., a research psychologist in the Center of Excellence in Alcohol, Drugs, and Addiction at McLean Hospital said in a statement.
Among the main points that researchers highlighted in the article are safe drinking limits while isolating and physically distancing, public health messages needing to have education about managing anxiety and stress without alcohol and individual’s knowing when concern should arise for themselves or others.
Additionally, the article points out the need for treatments for people at risk of relapse, including telehealth services as a suggestion for a way to provide care.
“Increasing identification of harmful alcohol use in patients and intervening early are key components of addressing this problem. In addition, recognition of the problem from policymakers could lead to changes in federal regulations—such as we have seen with telehealth—and improvements in access to health care,” said co-author Dr. Shelly F. Greenfield, director of the Alcohol, Drug, and Addiction Clinical and Health Services Research Program at McLean Hospital.
At the beginning of the pandemic, groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous pointed people toward hotlines while changes were being made with local in-person meetings.
“Many groups have alerted local A.A. offices or hotlines if they are temporarily not meeting in their regular space,” a March notice posted on AA’s website read. “Some groups have shared that they are utilizing digital platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or conducting conference calls.”