Health Watch: How COVID-19 has changed alcohol use

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 4:09 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -Life has changed dramatically since March, when communities began enacting stay-at-home orders to help slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. As many restaurants and bars closed, at-home alcohol sales went up, according to data compiled by Nielsen.

Dr. Victor Karpyak, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist and addiction researcher says using alcohol to celebrate or relieve stress is an age-old human trait, but overusing alcohol as a coping mechanism during these difficult times has consequences.

If you are closing your computer at the end of a work day and reaching for the liquor cabinet, chances are you’re not alone.

How much is too much though? Current recommendations are no more than 14 drinks per week and no more than four drinks per occasion for men; and, for women, no more than seven drinks per week and no more than three drinks per occasion.

”If it becomes three or four drinks today and it is again three or four drinks tomorrow, then very easily we start to hit above the weeklong threshold, and this is what needs to be an alarming sign,” says Dr. Karpyak.

An escalating pattern of drinking may be a potential sign of alcohol abuse and development of addiction, which affects relationships as well as the body. Karpyak said, ”There is no organ or system which is not impacted by chronic and significant alcohol use.”

According to Karpyak, alcohol-related liver disease is perhaps the most familiar problem, along with acute and chronic pancreatic disease and heart-related damage. ”And, as a psychiatrist, I can tell you that there is a lot of negative impact that long-term significant alcohol use has on brain tissue.”

Next time you want to reach for a cold one, consider reaching out to a friend to help ease the stress of the day.

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