Alcohol Addiction Post-COVID

Read on if you or a loved one have been struggling with alcohol or have been searching for “alcohol rehab near me.”

Table of Contents

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction is when an individual is unable to stop drinking excessively even though they know it results in negative consequences in their life, whether that be financially, socially, mentally, or otherwise. An alcohol use disorder can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. For those that have consumed alcohol for an extended period of time, it can also negatively impact the brain and overall behavior. This can look like changes to how the brain receives chemicals through its neurotransmitters, and it can also impact aggression and depression levels.

According to a national survey, over fourteen million people reported misusing alcohol or having an alcohol use disorder in 2019.1

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Understanding Alcoholism

Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Signs of alcoholism can manifest differently in everyone and often depends on the severity of the disorder, one’s genetic and social circumstances, or if the person is currently using any other substance alongside alcohol.

However, some common symptoms of alcohol abuse to look for in either yourself or a loved one include:2

  • Being unable to limit your drinking
  • Unsuccessfully trying to withdraw from the substance
  • Spending excessive time thinking about drinking or obtaining more alcohol
  • Cravings and urges to drink
  • Continuing to drink despite its adverse effects
  • Skipping social or family events in order to drink
  • Developing a high tolerance and dependence
  • Using alcohol in an unsafe situation, such as drinking and driving

How To Know If You’re Addicted to Alcohol

It can be difficult to figure out if you or a loved one are showing signs of an alcohol use disorder. Many people are unaware that they have a problem with certain substances until they overdose for the first time, while many others may think they have their drinking or substance use under control and can stop at any time. This is why being able to see potential signs of an alcohol use disorder, or knowing when to ask for alcohol addiction help, can be vital.

There can be many signs of alcohol abuse, including physical, behavioral, and psychological effects. These signs are detailed below.

Physical Signs

The most common physical signs of alcoholism include cravings or urges, withdrawal symptoms when one attempts to stop their usage, blackouts, heart and liver disease, memory loss, nausea, and insomnia.3

Behavioral Signs

Since severe or long-term alcohol use can change how the brain works, behavioral signs of alcoholism can be prominent. Some behavioral signs of alcoholism may include loss of control, engaging in risky behaviors (such as drunk driving or unsafe sex), neglecting work or social responsibilities, and continuing to drink despite adverse effects to yourself or others.4

Psychological Signs

An alcohol use disorder can cause a variety of mental health or psychiatric disorders or can exacerbate pre-existing ones. Some common psychological signs of alcohol abuse include anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and psychosis.5

What Causes Alcoholism?

There are numerous reasons why an individual may develop an alcohol use disorder, which can range from genetics, stress, social factors, or other mental health conditions. There is also no single cause for developing alcoholism. This means that, for example, just because you or a loved one do have a genetic predisposition for alcoholism you will develop an addiction to the substance. It only means that you could have a greater chance of developing one compared to someone else who does not have that same genetic component.

It’s important to be aware of these potential causes in order to prevent alcohol addiction. 

Genetics

One of the most notable potential causes of alcoholism is our genetic makeup. In fact, genetics are responsible for about 50% of the risk of someone developing an alcohol use disorder. This means that if you have a close family member who has also had an alcohol use disorder, you are more likely to potentially develop one as well. While this is not the only cause of alcoholism, please make sure to reach out to your doctor if you have a family history of alcohol use disorders and also find yourself struggling with the substance.6

Mental Health Conditions

Some mental health conditions can worsen with increased alcohol intake, such as anxiety or depression. There are also numerous instances where mental health conditions and alcoholism are co-existing. This can be due to the fact that many people with mental health conditions may drink in order to help cope with symptoms, or it could be because alcoholism has started these symptoms. Roughly one in three people with alcoholism also struggle with a mental health condition or disorder.7

Stress

Increased stress levels due to work, family, or other issues may cause an individual to start drinking to attempt to mitigate symptoms of stress. This can lead the person to develop a dependence on alcohol, and over time, this could lead to alcoholism.

Environmental and Social Factors

Certain environmental or social factors, such as easy and close proximity to alcohol, childhood abuse, peers or friends using alcohol, or even the social norms of drinking (especially at a high school or college age) can all contribute to an individual developing an alcohol use disorder.8

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) Risk Factors and Overview

Who Is At a Higher Risk For Alcoholism?

While anyone can develop an alcohol use disorder, there are some people who may be at a higher risk. This can depend on gender, trauma history, how often one drinks, and when one started drinking, along with family history. As mentioned above, those with a genetic component for alcoholism have a higher risk of developing the disorder than those who don’t, as do those with certain mental health conditions, no matter if they were co- or pre-existing.
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Underage or Frequent Drinking

Underage drinking can result from alcohol being readily available at home or because of friends in high school or early college drinking before it’s legal. Individuals who start drinking while underage are at a higher risk for developing alcoholism later in life. The same can be said for those who partake in frequent drinking, whether they do this while underage or after they are of legal drinking age.

Gender

Men often have a greater chance of developing alcoholism than women, but women are often more at risk for developing physical side effects as a result of drinking. For example, women will generally be more predisposed to brain or organ damage as a direct consequence of drinking than men are, even though they generally drink less.9

Trauma History

Individuals who have experienced trauma, whether it be during childhood or adulthood, are more likely to develop alcoholism than those who have not. This may be because many people use alcohol as a mechanism to help cope with their trauma, or due to other brain changes that lead one to start drinking.

How Easily Can You Become Addicted to Alcohol?

Alcohol appeals to the pleasure centers of the brain, and if you have been drinking for a long period of time, the brain associates drinking with some positive side effects such as euphoria, lack of inhibitions, and as a way to help mitigate symptoms of anxiety or depression.

This means it may be very easy for some people to become addicted to alcohol, especially if they use it as a coping mechanism or have a genetic predisposition for the disorder. Drinking patterns can emerge quickly after this point, which is also when it may be a good idea to start looking for “alcohol rehab near me” if you suspect a problem.

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How Much Is Too Much?

Anytime that you feel like your drinking may cause issues for you or your loved ones, it may be time to talk to your doctor. Oftentimes, binge drinking in men is defined as more than five units of alcohol in a row, and for women, this number is four. Heavy drinking, on the other hand, looks like eight drinks for women and fifteen for men.10

These numbers often depend on a person’s genetic makeup and overall height and weight, but these are loose guidelines to know when alcohol usage may be too much.

Did the Pandemic Expose a Drinking Problem?

When the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, there was a drastic change in how we had to live our lives. As businesses and social gathering areas, such as coffee shops and bars, began to shut down, people became much more isolated. This social isolation also led to an increase in people drinking at home during the pandemic. Alcohol addiction statistics drastically increased during this time, and pandemic drinking was a phrase that was starting to gain traction in treatment centers and for those that were binge drinking during this period.

Many people were entirely sequestered in their homes during the first six months of the pandemic, leading to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and paranoia. To cope, people turned to alcohol to help “take the edge off” of the immense and unprecedented feelings that COVID created. As a result, the number of people seeking alcohol addiction help also rose drastically.

Uncertainty and Other Side Effects

Alcohol has always been a common coping tool for many people who undergo hardship and stress, but when the pandemic started and most everyone was required to stay at home to protect others, uncertainty started to build as well. When it was proven that the COVID pandemic would become a long-term crisis, uncertainty over when life would go back to “normal” caused stress, therefore increasing alcohol intake.

As most of the population was working from home, the time period for being able to drink increased. Whereas before when many people went out for a drink to unwind at the end of a long day or week, the drinking time was extended to potentially most of the day, since individuals were stuck at home.

Alcohol and the Pandemic

For those who increased their alcohol consumption during the pandemic, they found that it helped curb some of the uncertainty and fear that COVID caused. Pandemic drinking was mainly increased in women, however, as they were the group that not only were left with more of the childcare and homeschooling responsibilities during this time, but they also left the labor force more than men did in order to help care for the house and family. Globally, women’s employment dropped by 4.2% during the pandemic, compared to less than 3% for men.11

Also during this time, many alcohol manufacturers exploited people turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Pandemic drinking numbers were increasing, and searches for “alcohol rehab near me” were growing in size as well. Since many used alcohol as a relaxation tool, alcohol manufacturers increased their output in order to account for demand. This, in turn, created many more people who grew dependent or reliant upon the substance to get through their day.

Substance Misuse During Coronavirus

How to Stop Alcohol Dependence

If you or a loved one are among those who started binge drinking or pandemic drinking during the height of COVID, you’re not alone. There are ways that you can help treat alcohol dependence and get back on track. If you also struggle with an alcohol use disorder outside of pandemic drinking, these tips can help you as well. Some common ways to help stop alcohol dependence include social support, changing your routine, and pre-commitment.

Pre-Commitment

This approach encourages individuals to pre-commit to stopping alcohol intake. This usually means pledging to stop binge drinking or pandemic drinking to kickstart the recovery process, and doing so in a public way will help decrease the relapse rate due to embarrassment or social stigma.12

Social Support

Gaining support from friends or family can be a huge help in working to stop alcohol dependence or pandemic drinking. Many people may have found themselves socially distancing themselves but still binge drinking with others during the pandemic. However, with the same support system, many people can work to overcome alcohol dependence and prevent their chance of relapse due to an alcohol use disorder.

Create Obstacles and Change Your Routine

Many people were forced into a new routine when COVID started. For example, certain grocery stores were only open at specific times, meaning we had to work our normal schedules but also completely switch around when we ran errands in order to meet safety measures many businesses put into place during the pandemic.

Changing your routine or creating obstacles that will not put you into contact with alcohol can help you start to organically reduce your alcohol intake and hopefully reduce the amount you or a loved one drink if you have found that pandemic drinking or binge drinking has become a problem.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

If you or a loved one started struggling with alcohol addiction or dependence at any time during the COVID pandemic, you’re not alone. It’s important to know that alcoholism is treatable and that you are able to get support and help if you feel you need it. There are multiple different avenues of therapy for an alcohol abuse disorder, including inpatient and outpatient programs, therapy approaches, and medication.

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Inpatient and Outpatient Therapy

These two treatment approaches are often available to help those who struggle with alcoholism or other substance abuse disorders. Inpatient treatment is more structured and involves the individual staying at a treatment center for anywhere from one to three months in order to receive medical attention and support.

Outpatient therapy is often utilized for those who have either been through the treatment process before or whose alcoholism is seen as less severe. Profound Treatment offers inpatient therapy for many patients who may need it.

Behavioral Therapy and Medication

There are numerous therapy approaches for those who struggle with binge drinking or pandemic drinking. These approaches can include cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and many others that can assist patients in learning how to develop healthy coping mechanisms while also cultivating ways to prevent relapse and live healthy lives.

Medication is another way that patients can receive help. Medication can range from antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, or medication to help with side effects related to behavior and mood, such as aggression or attention issues.

Reach Out to Profound Treatment Today

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcoholism, you’re not alone. It’s important to remember that help is available and that working to overcome substance abuse issues is not something you have to do by yourself.

Contact Profound Treatment today if you’re interested in starting therapy, beginning inpatient treatment, or want to begin working with a social support system. We will be with you every step of the way during recovery and will support you on your wellness journey.

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