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Alcohol Abuse In The Time Of Covid

GINNY GRAY, Therapist, LCSW

Ginny Gray, LCSW, is an Addiction Specialist Certified Recovery Coach and Certified in EMDR for the treatment of Trauma. She is uses  innovative EMDR protocols to treat anxiety, anger, depression and addiction. EMDR has the ability to reduce cravings and urges, and responds to triggers brought on by increased stress and other factors. Please reach out Ginny for more information and support.  203-249-3042 or email.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every family across the country and will likely have a long-lasting impact on public health. Alcohol has the potential to further complicate the COVID-19 pandemic in multiple ways.

1).  Alcohol misuse activates the immune system, causing inflammation, and interferes with the body’s immune response to viral and bacterial infections. In the lungs, excessive alcohol damages epithelial cells that line the lung surface and is associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome. Ultimately, impaired immune system function and increased susceptibility to respiratory illness could contribute to more severe COVID-19 symptoms and a greater risk of mortality.

2). The broad effects of the pandemic are also likely to lead to excessive alcohol consumption. We know from previous disasters, such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, that the stress of the events and anxiety about the future can increase drinking and exacerbate symptoms of alcohol use disorder. We also know that feeling socially isolated, a possible effect of physical distancing, can worsen symptoms of anxiety or depression, which may encourage more alcohol intake. Indeed, the current COVID-19 crisis appears to have already fueled increases in retail alcohol sales. From the stress of unemployment to feelings of isolation during physical distancing, there are many reasons the COVID-19 emergency may be influencing alcohol consumption

3. More people may drink and people may drink more heavily to cope with stress, sleep disturbances, and even boredom increasing their risk for alcohol use disorder and other adverse consequences. Although alcohol temporarily dampens the brain and body’s response to stress, feelings of stress and anxiety not only return, but worsen, once the alcohol wears off. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can cause adaptations in the brain that intensify the stress response. As a result, drinking alcohol to cope can make problems worse and one may end up drinking to fix the problem that alcohol caused.

4. Physical distancing (which can lead to “social distancing”) during the pandemic also has profound implications for access to treatment services for those with alcohol problems. Social support is a very powerful reinforcer for humans and is highly beneficial for helping people avoid relapse or an escalation in alcohol use. Recovery programs based on mutual peer support, and many different behavioral therapies, involve social support and are very helpful for people struggling with maintaining sobriety or regulating their alcohol consumption. (Please see below for a list of resources).

5. However, in-person visits might prove difficult at the moment. People currently in recovery or those who need help may benefit from telehealth and online support group meetings. Increasing online social interaction can also improve moods and reduce the motivation to drink to cope. Remember that social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. The extent to which we can help people find healthy ways to cope with stress could minimize the likelihood that they turn to alcohol.

BELOW IS A LIST OF LINKS OF FREE ONLINE SERVICE AND SUPPORT GROUPS.

https://refugerecovery.org/locations/online-us  (Takes a Buddhist Approach to Recovery) Refuge Recovery is grounded in the belief that Buddhist principles and practices create a strong foundation for a path to freedom from addiction. This program is an approach to recovery that understands: All individuals have the power and potential to free themselves from the suffering that is caused by addiction.

https://www.smartrecovery.org/smart-recovery-toolbox/smart-recovery-online-community/  (The program is science-based, incorporating scientific best practices in psychology. Here, you will find a supportive online community (message board forums, 24/7 chat and daily online meetings).

https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/options-for-meeting-online  https://aa-intergroup.org/directory.php    (AA.Org and Intergroup are both AA sites:  AA Offers the 12 Step Approach which is often the best known, and has offered support to millions)

https://lifering.org/lifering-recovery-menu/faqs/ – LifeRing works through positive social reinforcement. The meeting process empowers the Sober Self within each of us.

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