Help is available: Reach out today
People are coping with the current pandemic and related stress in many healthy ways, like with new or dusted-off hobbies, volunteering and philanthropic activities, or exercise and wellness. But an unhealthy coping behavior—alcohol use—is on the rise, and it’s important to know that help is available for those who need it.
A PERVASIVE PROBLEM
Even before COVID-19 came on the scene, alcohol was taking a heavy toll on Americans’ lives. According to the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):
- In 2018, 26.45% of people ages 18 or older reported they engaged in binge drinking in the past month; 6.6% reported that they engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month.
- An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States behind tobacco and poor diet/physical inactivity.
- In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31% of overall driving fatalities).
Those numbers have gone up considerably with the advent of the pandemic and its related stressors: For the week ending May 2, 2020, total U.S. alcohol sales were up by more than 32% compared to the same week one year ago.
That drinking increase is raising health care alarms. In addition to harming your brain, heart, liver, and pancreas, coupled with an increase in cancer, among other issues, excessive alcohol use weakens your immune system, which is especially dangerous during a pandemic.
HELP IS HERE
There are many reasons why people turn to alcohol during times like these, but there also are many avenues for help, such as:
- Licensees of Department of Consumer Affairs’ allied health boards and bureaus stand ready to assist those struggling with alcohol or other medical and behavioral issues; you can check a professional’s license at search.dca.ca.gov.
- NIAAA has online tools for adults and adolescents to help you navigate available resources.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7/365 treatment referral and information service available in English and Spanish for individuals facing mental and/or substance use disorders: (800) 662-HELP (4357).
- Alcoholics Anonymous is offering online meeting options.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance—for yourself or for a loved one—today.