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Alcohol consumption in times of COVID-19

While bars, restaurants and pubs are closed nearly across the EU and some companies are switching their production to hand sanitizers, there are some reports that alcohol consumption might actually be going up.

In Belgium for instance, sales of alcohol in supermarkets have increased by 10 to 15 percent. Separation from loved ones, uncertainty over disease status, and boredom can, on occasion, create dramatic effects. WHO Europe notes that mental health services should prepare for a surge in need as a result of the pandemic and social distancing measures.

People are stocking up on spirits, wine and beer in preparation for being stuck at home. In Britain, alcohol sales outpaced the rise in sales of groceries, by a 22% jump. To keep alcohol supply and themselves afloat businesses are also developing delivery services to meet consumer demand.

A trend which is supporting this are “online aperos” and “quarantinis”. Unable to go to bars or restaurants, people are instead finding ways to drink together online and virtual happy hours have become more common. With the rise of the online happy hour “quarantinis” has become a social media phenomenon with users sharing their recipes for drinks made by mixing liquor with vitamin supplements.

According to data from BACtrack a company that produces smartphone-connected breathalyser devices, residents from the Bay Area in the US drank 42% more than usual, and they are seeing similar results from other metropolitan areas.

Alcohol effects the immune system

Alcohol consumption does not have to be chronic to have negative health consequences. In fact, research shows that acute binge drinking also affects the immune system. Which is exactly the opposite of what one wants in the middle of a global pandemic.

“Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol could cause damage to immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system which in turn can increase the risk of developing diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and respiratory distress syndrome, not to mention making you more susceptible to viruses” Dr. Aragona Giuseppe said to Metro News.

Mental Health

However, such innocent ways of keeping in touch with our friends and colleagues in a long term could have unintended negative consequences. While we are experiencing higher levels of stress we should look after our mental health without turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

The third most common mental health disorder in the world is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). The current pandemic can be a very unsettling situation for people who suffer from AUD and worryingly turn some of us into drinking more.

Alcohol should not be used as a coping mechanism under any circumstances.
Below are alternative strategies to help us all deal with anxiety during these unprecedented times.

How to cope with COVID-19 without drinking too much alcohol:

  • Connect with others via videocalls (tea parties could also be a thing)
  • Help others to help yourself, shifting your focus to helping other people will help you forget about your anxiety (but please maintain physical distancing rules)
  • Eat healthy well-balance meals
  • Drink enough water
  • Exercise inside or outside once a day (keeping the recommended social distancing guidance and if this is in accordance with government advice in your country).
  • Sleep well (avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment)
  • Switch off - manage your media and information intake: 24-hour news and constant social media updates can make you more worried
  • Joyful activities (whatever it is for you) read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting, learning a new language etc.
  • Take time to relax and focus on the present: Relaxation techniques can help some people to deal with feelings of anxiety. 
  • If you can, once a day get outside, or bring nature in: Spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. If you can’t get outside you can try to get these positive effects by spending time with the windows open or arranging space to sit and see a view (if possible) and get some natural sunlight.

For WHO advice on coping with stress during the 2019-nCoV outbreak visit:

Keep track of your drinking

If you’re worried about your drinking getting out of hand, there are tools available made by Eurocare members to help you keep track so you can make the decision to cut down if you notice your intake increasing.

Try Alcohol Change UK tracking app: Try Dry 

It tracks your intake with charts and graphs, plus units (this is a concept used only in the UK but can be a useful indicator), calories and money saved when you cut down (please remember this is an app targeted towards UK consumers so you might have to keep track of your spending in EUR). You can also earn badges for days off or reducing your units.

Get support remotely

If you would like to obtain more information on support available in your country please contact Eurocare members, who would be happy to help you or signpost in the right direction.

For a full list of Eurocare members please visit:


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