Amidst the recent coronavirus outbreak and the national “stay at home” orders, many states throughout the United States have experienced a major spike in alcohol sales. People might be stocking up in case of alcohol shortages, they might be attempting to combat boredom with beer and liquor, or they might be self-medicating the immense amounts of stress and sadness that seem to go hand-in-hand with the unsure and with social distancing. Whatever the cause, liquor sales are on the increase – and of course, this means that people are drinking more than they were previously. This seems to be a bit ironic, considering that those who are abiding by all government implemented guidelines are doing so to stay healthy – and excessive alcohol consumption is anything but.
Many healthcare professionals have weighed in on the subject, reminding American citizens that while alcohol does produce calming effects, it has many serious effects on both physical, mental, and emotional health.
Alcohol Abuse and the Immune System
While alcohol works to calm the mind, the effect that it has on the immune system is similar – it slows things down. Several studies show that when taken in very small amounts, certain types of alcohol can result in a small immune system boost shortly after ingestion. For example, some studies show drinking 8 ounces of red wine can boost the immune system by providing it with necessary antioxidants. Those who drink more than the recommended amount (and let’s be honest… those who are hoarding alcohol during quarantine and drinking more than the recommended amount) put themselves at great risk of weakened immune systems.
Between two to five hours of getting intoxicated, studies show that the brief immune system boost fades rapidly, and the white blood cell count is reduced. White blood cells keep the immune system function and help ward off illness. Drinking to excess makes it extremely difficult for the body to successfully fight off infectious disease. According to a recent report published by the Mayo Clinic, drinking alcohol also leads to an increased propensity towards catching pneumonia – one of the predominant symptoms of COVID-19.
Alcoholism and Mental Health
Excessive alcohol consumption also takes a major toll on mental health. Alcohol itself is a depressant, meaning that with continuous use, certain “feel good” chemicals within the brain (dopamine and serotonin) are depleted. This can make a serious and often scary situation like the one we’re experiencing now even more difficult to cope with. Alcohol also contributes to feelings of anxiety and the development of anxiety-related disorders. Rather than reaching for chemical substances to self-medicate feelings of stress or sadness, consider the fact there is no better time to get clean and sober than right now. You likely already have an extended break from work or from school, and you were thrown into a position where your already existent addictive disorder will thrive – home all day, very little expectation, the ability to stay inside in your pajamas if that’s what you choose to do.
We at Recreate Life Counseling encourage those who are being emotionally and mentally affected by COVID-19 and are reaching for alcohol abuse and other forms of substance abuse to decide instead to reach for the quality treatment they both need and deserve. We are opening up a new residential treatment portion of our overall program of recovery, allowing those with moderate to severe substance abuse disorders the opportunity to heal in a safe and supportive environment. No matter how mild or severe your symptoms of addiction are, we are available to help. We offer intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization services to those who may not need residential care.
Even if you began abusing alcohol at the start of lockdown, there is no reason why you can’t get your life back in order before restrictions are lifted. Give us a call today to learn what we can do to help you get back on the right track, or overcome a serious addiction that you may have been struggling with for a while. Regardless of what level of care you need, we are here to help in any and every way that we can.