Women & Alcohol in the Era of COVID-19

Everyone in our society is facing the ravages of COVID-19. This suffering takes many forms, from financial insecurity to social isolation to the fears of death or disability due to the virus itself.

Of great concern to the doctors and counselors at New Life Medical Addiction Services is the recent increase in alcohol-related deaths in women. Not only do women experience a greater impact from alcohol use than men, but many women are also experiencing acute discomfort and anxiety from the unprecedented levels of isolation, despair, and financial uncertainty that result from the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the consequences of the isolation and depression that has accompanied this epidemic is a significant increase in alcohol misuse and in alcohol-related deaths among women.

Research conducted by the JAMA Network revealed that women have experienced a 39% increase in adverse consequences associated with alcohol use during the covid-19 pandemic. This translates to an increase of alcohol-related problems for nearly 10% of women. Furthermore, while alcohol consumption rose by an average of 10% it increased by over 41% for women.

Nielsen data on the sale of alcohol in the U.S. corroborates the overall trend of increased alcohol sales and consumption.  Data from 2020 shows that alcohol sales across the United States were up 27.6% for wine, 26.4% for hard liquor, and 14% for beer, cider, and malt beverages, over the same period in 2019. Given that an estimated 100,000 people a year die from alcohol-related causes under normal circumstances it is anticipated that this number will be much greater in 2020.

In response to these alarming statistics, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued the following warnings about alcohol consumption:

  • Drinking alcohol does not protect you from COVID-19.
  • Drinking alcohol weakens your body’s ability to fight infections, increasing the risk of complications and making it harder to get better if you are sick.
  • Alcohol use can increase the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia, which are sometimes associated with COVID-19.
  • Alcohol use as a risk factor for pneumonia and other lung-related diseases, such as COVID-19

The concern in the medical and addiction communities is that the increased alcohol use spurred on by the current pandemic will have an outsized impact on the health and well-being of women.

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Are Women More Impacted by Alcohol?

For the past several decades, studies have shown that women have a higher degree of sensitivity to alcohol than men and they also have a higher disposition to acquiring AUD (alcohol use disorder).  Women are also more likely to suffer from the effects of alcohol abuse and to consume quantities of alcohol that their bodies cannot handle.

There are several reasons why women have different physiological reactions to alcohol than men. Medical research has shown that men and women metabolize alcohol differently due to differences in gastric tissue activity. As a result, women have higher blood alcohol levels than men and become intoxicated from lower amounts of alcohol in their systems, even after consuming the same amounts of the initial beverages as men.  As a result of these physiological differences, a large number of women will become dependent on alcohol, which can eventually increase their likelihood of dying from excessive alcohol intake.

Suffering through mental and physical trauma is another way that a person can succumb to alcoholism. This kind of harm can result from a number of causes including job loss, social isolation, military and first responder service, being a victim of crime or domestic abuse. Each of these has been on the increase and is exacerbated by the rise of COVID. Domestic abuse is one of the most insidious causes since people are confined to their homes and women are most likely to be abused by a husband, boyfriend or domestic partner.

Social isolation is another major factor in alcoholism among women. As America has gone into lock down, people are less able to interact with their family, friends, and loved ones who provide the most emotional support. Once those relationships have been reduced there are some women who resort to excess drinking to fill that emotional void and to reduce their feelings of loneliness. And loneliness and the sadness that accompany it often result in further depression and anxiety. Some women may think that a drink will make them feel better. The truth is that alcohol is a depressant and will only worsen feelings of isolation and anxiety.

Job loss is also a significant issue among women and the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in disproportionate job losses for women. Since many women are the sole or major breadwinners for their households, the stress and uncertainty of being able to provide for their families can be too much. Resorting to alcohol as a coping mechanism is sometimes the result.

Fortunately, New Life Medical Addiction Services in Marlton, NJ is here to help. New Life’s doctors, medical personnel, and counselors use the latest in medical treatments for alcohol abuse. Our caring staff works with women who are faced with challenges in terms of their alcohol abuse and will prescribe a course of treatment and counseling that will allow them to get back to their lives. Importantly, New Life focuses on outpatient treatment which means that you can recover from the security of your own home while knowing that our staff is only a phone call away.

To speak to someone at New Life, call us at: 856-942-3700 or send us a Text Message.

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