Alcohol in lockdown: Is my lockdown drinking normal? How you might be drinking too much

Alcohol is an “unhelpful coping strategy” for stress and isolation during coronavirus lockdown according to a World Health Organization expert. Despite warnings many are drinking more than usual, but how much alcohol is dangerous in this new climate? Express.co.uk speaks to an alcohol expert about how drinking behaviours have evolved during the coronaviruus lockdown.

The British Medical Journal has said tackling harmful drinking during lockdown will be “an integral part of the nation’s recovery”.

Supermarket sales of alcohol have soared ahead of the lockdown and continued throughout.

A BMJ article by Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, who chairs Alcohol Health Alliance UK, and Ilora Finlay, who chairs the House of Lords Commission on Alcohol Harms reads: “Many people reacted to the closure of pubs and restaurants by stocking up to drink at home in isolation.”

According to figures, sales of alcohol in off-licences rose by 31 percent in the same month compared to last year, but this accounts for just one percent of total alcohol sales.

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A recent YouGov survey of 2,421 adults conducted from May 18 to 19 found the fear of catching COVID-19, a lack of structure and a general feeling of a lack of control were the top reasons driving drinking during lockdown.

One Year No Beer founder Ruari Fairbains said: “When Dame Sally Davies Head of Public Health England announced the changes to 14 units a week for men and women, she started off by saying “there is no safe limit.”

“So the true healthy relationship with alcohol – is one where you don’t put ethanol in your body.

“In reality – we live in today’s society and that means we have an occasional drink.

“That would probably define a healthy relationship with alcohol – one where you can take it or leave it, but mostly leave it.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, the monthly volume of alcohol rose by 31.4 percent for April.

While the value of sales rose by 32.6 percent.

Alcohol sales were one of the few areas of retail which soared while wider retail was hard hit by the lockdown, with clothing sales dropping by 35 percent month-on-month.

Drinking is being used as a coping mechanism for many.

But Mr Fairbains said: “Using alcohol as a coping mechanism is most definitely not healthy.

“Increased consumption levels over time can have negative health consequences.”

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The YouGov survey found 45 percent of respondents were consuming the same amount of alcohol as before lockdown.

But more than a quarter (29 percent) admitted to drinking more during the lockdown.

Mr Fairbairns said: “Prolonged periods of a certain behaviour will almost certainly begin to form new habits or behaviours.

“The survey also revealed that 18 percent of UK alcohol drinkers believe they will emerge from lock down drinking more than they did pre-lockdown.

“That’s almost a fifth of people that drink alcohol drinking more.”

Liver specialist Professor Kevin Moore said increased alcohol consumption can, in fact, make you more susceptible to coronavirus.

He said: “There is so much positive research and work going on right now in the fight against COVID-19, but it’s vital that people don’t overlook the hugely negative impact that alcohol could have during these challenging times.

“It is well known that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to liver disease and various cancers.

“What is less well known is that people who drink excess alcohol are more likely to develop pneumonia, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection, and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

“That makes it almost certain that if you drink too much alcohol, you are more likely to develop COVID-19 and complications.

“Furthermore alcohol impairs your immune system, if you develop COVID-19 infection, the chronic use of alcohol will impair your ability to recover from infection.”

Mr Fairburns added there is alternative support on offer for those struggling with alcohol consumption during lockdown.

Specifically, he advised people to consider joining a low or no-alcohol community such as One Year No Beer, focussing on themselves and their loved ones, family and friends, picking up a new hobby, exercising more or trying to catch up on chores that you have been trying to get round to for months.

He added: “The NHS is under increased pressure for obvious reasons so the last thing we want people to do is incur any other alcohol-related health issues resulting in an urgent trip to hospital.

“Reducing your alcohol intake and making positive decisions about your health are both great ways to help keep the NHS safe and protect others, all from the safety of your home.”

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