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COVID-19 Pandemic & Alcohol Addiction

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Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic & Alcohol Addiction

Some people claim that drinking alcohol can help protect from the COVID-19 virus, but this is just a myth and has no scientific basis. In fact, it is possible that alcohol consumption can increase the chance of developing severe illness due to COVID-19.

Navigation: Alcohol Addiction and COVID-19, Can You Drink Alcohol with a COVID-19 Diagnosis?, Drinking Alcohol before the COVID-19 Swab Test, Alcohol Addiction Treatment During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Drinking Alcohol after COVID-19 Pneumonia, Alcohol Consumption During the Pandemic, Post COVID-19 Alcohol Intolerance, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every family all over the world. Its effects on public health will most likely be long-lasting. It’s no surprise that most people are looking for different ways to cope with the stress caused by the pandemic. Some of them turn to alcohol.

But alcohol abuse has been a major public health concern even before the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially true in the United States, where alcohol now threatens to complicate the pandemic even further.

For those in recovery, the pandemic creates even more problems. Recovering from substance addiction is already hard enough on its own. But the pandemic is a unique situation that must now be factored into the equation. Therefore it is important to talk about the relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and alcohol abuse.

Some people claim that drinking alcohol can help protect from the COVID-19 virus, but this is just a myth and has no scientific basis. In fact, it is possible that alcohol consumption can increase the chance of developing severe illness due to COVID-19. So not only does alcohol not protect you from the virus, it may even cause a bigger problem if you do get sick from it.


Alcohol Addiction and COVID-19

Hand sanitizers that contain ethyl alcohol can help destroy the coronavirus on surfaces. But alcoholic beverages do not have the same effect. Drinking any form of alcohol does not offer any sort of protection from COVID-19.

After one drink, the concentration of alcohol in the blood is in the range of 0.01 to 0.03%. This is just a very small fraction of the alcohol concentration needed to create an antiseptic effect. But this is also impossible to reach because a blood alcohol concentration of over o.40% can already be fatal. This is not something people should attempt.

Alcohol abuse creates the opposite effect instead. It makes the body more susceptible to viral infections. Having alcohol in your system at the time of exposure to the coronavirus will slow down the body’s natural immune response. This means you are more likely to get infected.

Alcohol abuse also has long term effects. Excessive consumption of alcohol over a prolonged period of time can damage your organs and impair immune cell function. Overall, it weakens the body’s immune system.

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome or ARDS is another condition that is commonly associated with alcohol misuse. In fact, misusing alcohol exposes a person to greater risk of developing ARDS. If they do develop this condition, they are more likely to require mechanical ventilation or an extended stay in the intensive care unit. Finally, those who abuse alcohol have a higher risk of mortality from ARDS.

These effects can potentially complicate COVID-19 treatment and recovery.

Some people may believe that alcohol stimulates their immune system, but this is not accurate. Alcohol is not good for the immune system. Drinking therefore has no benefit that protects you from a viral infection.

There is even a myth about alcohol on the breath being able to kill the virus in the air. Alcoholic beverages cannot disinfect the mouth. Therefore they are unable to protect you from any type of infection.


Can You Drink Alcohol with a COVID-19 Diagnosis?

If you get infected by the coronavirus, your main priority should be your own health. Isolating yourself to keep your loved ones from getting infected is important. During this period, you also need to take care of yourself so that you can recover from COVID-19 as quickly as possible.

Since alcohol has an adverse effect on the body, it may be a good idea to stay away from it while you are trying to recover from the coronavirus. While there is no specific rule that says you couldn’t drink alcohol while you are diagnosed with COVID-19, there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t do it anyway. Alcohol impairs your mind and weakens your body, which can make it that much harder to get better if you have COVID.

An impaired immune system can make COVID-19 more severe. It even increases your risk of mortality.

So overall, drinking alcohol not only puts you at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus, it can also make its effects more severe if you do get it.

The reason why people drink during the pandemic is because of stress and anxiety. No one knows what the future holds, and this is made abundantly clear by the pandemic. Previous disasters prove that a lot of people drink to cope with their stress during uncertain times.

The pandemic and the resulting lockdowns led to people feeling hopeless and isolated. Social distancing, while necessary, can worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety. This only makes it more challenging for people in recovery to stay sober. The stress can encourage drinking and even alcohol abuse.

The COVID-19 crisis has already increased retail alcohol sales. Some people use it to cope, while others have started using it as an excuse to drink more than they already do. There are many reasons why this pandemic may be influencing alcohol consumption.

Drinking Alcohol before the COVID-19 Swab Test

There are no specific rules regarding drinking alcohol before or after a COVID-19 swab test. Because of limited tests, it is recommended that you avoid getting a swab test if you have no symptoms. But other than that, there are no restrictions when it comes to COVID-19 swab tests. It goes without saying that you probably should avoid showing up drunk during your swab test for COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, there are certain medications you should avoid if you are getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes ibuprofen and acetaminophen. However, there is no mention of alcohol. Additionally, there is no evidence that alcohol impacts the efficacy of the vaccine.

With that said, alcohol is known to dehydrate the body, and so if you drink after getting the vaccine you may experience more severe side effects. Instead, drink plenty of water before and after getting vaccinated. Staying hydrated will help your body recover faster from any side effects caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.

Because of the pandemic, people who don’t drink may find themselves experimenting just because they want to deal with their feelings of loneliness and isolation. Those who drink actively may drink more because of the stress of going through a global pandemic. Some people drink out of boredom. These feelings are normal. But alcohol is not the solution. In fact, it can even make things worse.

Imagine having to deal with alcohol addiction and COVID-19 at the same time. When people drink alcohol, it dampens their brain’s stress response. However, this effect is only temporary. When the alcohol wears off, the stress comes back and it only gets worse.

The feelings of anxiety get amplified. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption affects the brain in a way that intensifies its response to stress. You may end up drinking just to deal with the effects that alcohol caused in the first place.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Some people need to avoid alcohol entirely. These are the ones who take certain prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs; those who are underage or pregnant; and those with certain medical conditions. People should also avoid drinking if they intend to drive.

Drinking responsibly is not just for those who want to avoid COVID-19. There are many situations where people should avoid alcohol completely. But in any case, excessive alcohol consumption is never a good thing. You may develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcoholism. You may even become addicted.

Alcohol addiction is characterized by the inability to quit drinking even when the person is already suffering from its adverse effects. They will not care about the consequences of their actions. They will keep drinking even if it is already compromising their health or relationships. Alcohol becomes their number one priority, losing interest in hobbies they used to enjoy in favor of drinking. They will spend more time with friends who encourage their drinking. They will even binge drink on a regular basis.

For those with an alcohol addiction, recovering can be tough. The pandemic can only make their situation worse because on top of the adverse health effects of alcohol, they also have to worry about potentially contracting the coronavirus.

If you have a loved one who is struggling with alcohol addiction, it is important to give them your support especially now that we are also dealing with a pandemic. Achieving long term sobriety is the goal. And even though it is challenging to get sober during this particularly stressful time, it is still possible. Help your loved one by looking for an addiction treatment facility near you and learning about their treatment programs for those with alcohol addiction.

Remember that people who have been drinking for a long time may be dependent on alcohol. Therefore if they quit drinking, they will go through an uncomfortable period of withdrawal. It is much safer to go through this process while under the supervision of medical professionals. Withdrawal symptoms can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening, and so addicted individuals should not quit cold turkey.

In a rehab setting, they will undergo medical detox where their alcohol intake will be lowered gradually while their withdrawal symptoms and cravings are managed. Medications are typically used to make detox more comfortable for the patient.

Drinking Alcohol after COVID-19 Pneumonia

As we have established, alcohol has a negative effect on a person’s immune system. It can therefore increase their risk of certain infectious diseases including COVID-19. Pneumonia and tuberculosis are also on this list.

This is because alcohol prevents immune cells from working properly. This is according to a 2015 article in the journal Alcohol Research. With the immune system weakened, it becomes unable to fight off infections. It even increases the risk of inflammation, which weakens the immune system further.

When someone develops a severe illness due to COVID-19, the risk of developing ARDS increases as well. This happens when fluid fills up air sacs in the lungs. It affects oxygen supply to the body—and its consequences can be life-threatening. Alcohol abuse increases the chance of developing ARDS.

Alcohol Consumption During the Pandemic

For those with drinking problems, physical distancing during the pandemic can make treatment less accessible—not because rehabs are closing, but because social support is an important element in the recovery journey. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can lead to a person feeling hopeless and not wanting to seek treatment.

Social support is also highly beneficial for those in recovery because it motivates them to avoid relapse. Having a supportive environment is crucial because it encourages the person to stay on the right path.

This kind of support may not be readily available during the time of a pandemic, but loved ones can find other ways to show their support for the person in rehab. Even though in-person visits may be difficult at the moment, the person in recovery can still get regular updates from their family through the online space. There are even online support groups that help provide emotional support during this difficult time. Social distancing does not necessarily have to mean social isolation.

Post COVID-19 Alcohol Intolerance

Although there are many people who started drinking as a way to cope with the pandemic, there are also those who had the opposite experience. Because of the pandemic, they realized how precious their health is and that they need to take care of themselves. Their decision to go sober was influenced by the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has prompted many Americans to start taking steps to get rid of alcohol from their system. This is a great development since studies have shown that no amount of alcohol is healthy.

Even though alcohol is a part of our culture, not every social engagement needs to have it. A lot of people have started their journey to sobriety, discovering online communities that encourage sobriety especially in the midst of the pandemic. They took it as inspiration to make a big change in their lives.

The impact of COVID19 on people’s mental health is undeniable. Anxiety and depression are some of the most common mental health outcomes of the coronavirus disease. People are stressed over job losses, mental illness, and economic impacts of the health crisis. But the negative impact of the coronavirus disease should not stop you from getting the help you need for your alcohol use disorder.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder, look for a treatment facility near you today and learn more about how they treat these problems. Even though there is a pandemic going on, it should not stop you from getting the help you need. The road to recovery starts today.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.


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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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