Testing for Alcohol Abuse during COVID 19

I’ve been treating alcohol addiction for 30 years. During that time, I’ve never seen a measurable increase in alcohol consumption affecting the general public.  This increase in drinking, that started around March 2020 is unprecedented. Alcohol sales and consumption has skyrocketed during the COVID 19 outbreak worldwide.  I’ve read several statistics that report alcohol sales are up 55% right now. This is causing many people to question whether their drinking or a loved one’s alcohol consumption is a sign of an underlining alcohol abuse issue or simply excessive drinking due to boredom, stress, or anxiety.

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Just because a person’s alcohol consumption has increased does not mean they are an alcoholic.

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Increased drinking, heavy drinking, and problem drinking can be caused by a variety of factors. The question is how do you tell the difference. Is a person’s increased alcohol consumption (during COVID 19) due to alcoholism or is it due to dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, or boredom? Possibly it’s both

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What are the symptoms of Alcohol Abuse?

Symptom number one of an alcohol abuse situation is that you are reading this article. If a person’s alcohol consumption gets to the point where either they or their loved ones start researching alcohol abuse information that is the first sign of a potential alcohol problem. Normal drinkers never question the amount of alcohol they drink. So, wondering if there is a problem is the first sign of a problem. It’s kind of like getting a flat tire in a car. When was the last time you were driving along and thought to yourself, I have a flat tire and pulled over and the tire was perfectly fine? We don’t do that. Now if we hear a loud bang like a tire blowing or a warning light goes off or the car begins to shake, we pull over and yes, we have a flat tire. My point is if you are reading this article there is cause for concern about alcohol abuse. Denial of an alcohol problem is a major symptom of an alcohol problem.

Is there a test to determine if someone is an alcoholic?

So, back to the question, is the increased alcohol consumption during COVID 19 a normal response or the sign that a person has an alcohol abuse problem and needs treatment? In some cases, it is in others it isn’t. So how does one figure out if the increased consumption is an indicator of an underlining problem? Well unlike COVID 19 there is no blood or bodily fluid test to tell if someone is suffering from Alcoholism.  There are many symptoms that indicate when a person suffers from alcohol abuse. If you or a loved one is wondering if there is an alcohol abuse problem call an expert.

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Can you control and enjoy the amount you drink?

The next warning sign of an underlining alcohol abuse condition is control. Can you stop drinking more alcohol at any point? Or are you normally drinking more than you intend?  What I mean here is when the person starts drinking alcohol and intend to drink a certain amount (like 2 beers or two drinks) and once they start drinking, they drink far more than they planned. This is perhaps the single biggest sign of an underlying alcohol addiction that needs to be treated. If when a person starts drinking and at some point, in that drinking, they drink much more then they intend that is a sign of a person who needs treatment for alcohol abuse.

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Let’s talk about a person whose alcohol consumption substantially increased but does not have an underling alcohol condition that needs to be treated. 

Let me tell you whom I would not be concerned with even if their alcohol consumption increased 350%. Let’s take the person that used to have one or two beers each day on the weekend. Now they are having one or two beers every day of the week. During Covid 19 for some people every day seems the same. I was calling it Groundhog Day like the movie myself. For quite a while since I was working from home, I would get confused about what day it was. So simply going from drinking one or two drinks a day on the weekends to everyday is a 350% increase in alcohol consumption and not one I would worry about. People with alcohol abuse disorder cannot stop drinking at one or two drinks a day on a daily basis PERIOD. So, during the pandemic increased frequency of alcohol consumption does not mean a person is suffering alcohol addiction.

If you or a loved one is ready to take the steps to get treatment for Alcohol dependence, the team at Beginnings Treatment is here to help.

What about the person that drank heavily on the weekends and now is drinking heavily daily?

Or what about the person that started heavily drinking for the first time during COVID 19? This is one of the more common inquiries I receive. Take the weekend sports bar attendee. He and his buddies plan to have several pitchers at the sports bar and watch games on the weekend. In the past, they would set up a designated driver for their special occasion drinking. Now they are drinking heavily almost every day. They see no difference between their previous weekend only drinking and their drinking now. They have not accelerated their drinking their own minds they just have longer weekends now.

The bottom line. A person that drinks one or two drinks a day in most cases does not have an alcohol problem. (Unless they do what many alcoholics do and that is fill up a big gulp with alcohol and say that’s one drink. I am talking about 1-2 ounces of hard alcohol or one to two beers a day). A person drinking more than that may be an alcoholic. And if that’s the case, you might want to talk to someone about it.

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Bruce Berman
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