Lessons from Lockdown: you won't find the answer in the bottom of a glass.

Pubs and bars are closed but it looks like we have been overindulging at home.

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Off-licence alcohol sales increased by 67% in March and if you were a regular drinker pre-pandemic it looks like you might have enjoyed a few too many by now!* If like many of us, you have been bored at home and turned to online drinking parties to maintain your social life then do keep a check on yourself and your friends. It is a fine line between having fun and alcohol abuse. For too many of us, alcohol is a really bad idea, for example alcohol is indicated in upwards of 70% of domestic abuse cases.

Emotional Scars

Ian Soars, Dad.info's CEO and survivor of his parent's addiction to alcohol is filled with dread by these statistics: " My Mother was a respectable member of the community and a good mum in many ways. Until she had a drink. Then the things she said and did were unspeakable. But if asked about any of this she would deny she had a problem...even to herself. Pretty much like we all do I suppose. But as her son....I knew it was wrong then and I carry the emotional scars even now. So these statistics fill me with dread. Dread for all those children of Dads and Mums who think they are in control, it's less than a bottle for goodness sake, that they don't have a problem and are so so sorry for what they said last night/yesterday/never said/didn't do/ deny. Children won't forget what we do. Like we never forget what our parents did. So if any of this rings true for you get some support. Your children will be grateful for the rest of their lives".

Alcohol use & Coronavirus: Emerging bleary eyed and hung over?

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Psychotherapist Noel McDermott comments: “Even short-term binge use of alcohol can have significant impacts on health and wellbeing and this is exactly the pattern we are seeing during the pandemic so far. A vicious circle builds up quickly with alcohol use for stress. Short term it can be managed but we are now neurologically out of the short term when the brain is adapting to these new alcohol consumption patterns meaning these new habits will be hard to break”.

The Effects of Alcohol Abuse

It is not just a case of chronic alcohol use being the only problem as the levels of binge drinking, we are currently seeing is unsustainable. Those that are in the regular users’ category that have increased their consumption during the pandemic are reporting problems with sleeping, problems with mood regulation, concentration issues, productivity issues, relationship problems. As we move out of the lockdown and the economy opens up, stress factors are increasing not decreasing with re-entry anxiety being widely reported. Increasingly breweries and pubs have adapted to the new situation and are providing home delivery and takeaway services. There is every indication that these services are being used at pre-lockdown levels and also no indication that retail sales have dropped off***.

The overall picture is that the cohort of problematic drinkers is growing, and we will see the problems with alcohol abuse increase, these include a rise in:

  • Relationship breakdowns
  • Domestic abuse
  • Health concerns
  • Mental health issues
  • Work problems
  • Financial worries

Help for problematic drinkers at all time low

China and Italy, who have come out of lockdown before us, have seen all of the above already. The pandemic has been stressful without adding alcohol abuse. Prior to Covid, only one in five people with harmful drinking got the help they needed and now as problematic drinking is increasing and services are more difficult to access this number has significantly lessened. It’s essential that we are armed with information around alcohol use and abuse and take individual steps to ensure we are safe. Every time we have experienced challenges on a social level involving job insecurity, financial meltdown and during this current crisis the challenges to provide frontline services beyond the medical needs of the pandemic, alcohol abuse has risen significantly producing problems for a generation.

Ensure you don’t become a statistic by following these simple measures:

  • Don’t drink regularly - the healthiest pattern of drinking is random and irregularly
  • Don’t drink to manage anxiety, stress, depression or because you can’t sleep - seek professional help if this is happening
  • If you wait till you have a problem with drinking it’s too late - be proactive in your health with alcohol
  • Take regular breaks from drinking - times when you don’t drink at all
  • Don't fall into the pressure of drinking to the same levels of other people during happy hours for example - always drink to moderation when you do drink
  • Use alcohol free alternatives to drink socially with others - there are a great deal of low alcohol and zero alcohol beers, wines and increasingly spirits available

Ask for Help

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If you are worried about drinking, don’t wait for help. Catching these sorts of problems in the early stage vastly increases positive outcomes. There are brief interventions for alcohol use problems that can very effectively stop the problem growing into something unmanageable.

About the Author

Noel McDermott is a Psychotherapist with over 25 years’ experience in health, social care, and education. He is the founder and CEO of three organisations, Psychotherapy and Consultancy Ltd, Sober Help Ltd and Mental Health Works Ltd. Noel’s company offer at-home mental health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised care teams for the individual. They have recently launched a range of online therapy resources in order to help clients access help without leaving home - https://www.noelmcdermott.net/group-therapy/.

*https://www.alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk/news/scots-report-changing-drinking-patterns-during-coronavirus-lockdown/

**https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52329679

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