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Coronavirus and Alcoholism
Alcoholism and the Coronavirus are interrelated. If you are an alcoholic or you have struggled with the condition in the past, there is a high chance that you might suffer a relapse during the pandemic.
To this end, it is important that you learn how to mitigate the complications that might be caused by the current pandemic. For instance, you might want to learn how to avoid triggers if you are an addict. This is because you have a high chance of suffering a relapse during the current situation.
It might also be in your best interests to consider seeking addiction treatment and rehabilitation services in case you suffer a relapse or if you are severely struggling with alcoholism.
Luckily, most addiction treatment centers are taking safety precautions to reduce the risk of an outbreak in their facilities. Some are quarantine new arrivals before they allow them into the center while others are no longer accepting patients from hot spots where the Coronavirus has been reported. A great majority are also keeping their staff members on lock down in the facilities while creating an isolated environment to reduce the risk of a flare-up in the disease.
Alcoholism and COVID-19
The new Coronavirus has been discussed on social media, television, and even in homes across the United States for several months now. As new cases continue coming into light, the pandemic has been affecting almost everyone in the country. It has also caused widespread uncertainty and panic.
It is natural to feel vulnerable during such a crisis, as well as to be scared of the unknown. You might also be naturally inclined to discuss your concerns as well as to look to other people for ongoing support.
However, if you are already struggling with alcoholism - also known as an alcohol use disorder - the pandemic will come with an unique set of its own concerns. This is because alcoholism is a chronic and relapsing disease that involves certain signs and symptoms.
Irrespective of the volume of alcohol that you consume, it is important to keep in mind that the substance can weaken your immune system over time. This means that having problematic drinking behaviors means that you are among the vulnerable populations that could contract COVID-19 and end up struggling with a bad case of the disease.
Although the priority of the United States at this time is to flatten the curve, there are unique needs that you will have as an alcoholic that are equally urgent. This is especially true when you consider the fact that home quarantining and social distancing are the norm at the time.
COVID-19 and Alcoholism
But how does the Coronavirus affect people struggling with an alcohol use disorder? With the threat of this condition, if you have problematic drinking behaviors it is highly likely that you will also find yourself facing:
- A decrease in the health of your immune system related to alcohol abuse
- Loneliness as a result of social distancing and the instructions to remain at home
- The potential for an increase in your susceptibility to contract certain infectious diseases
- The restricted access to alcoholic beverages might cause you to suffer from alcohol withdrawal symptoms
Over this period, it is essential that you acknowledge and understand all these challenges - as well as any others that you might end up facing. By so doing, you will be less likely to start drinking alcohol as a coping mechanism or to self-medicate. This is because doing so will potentially increase certain risks that are related to the Coronavirus.
As a human being, it is natural for you to worry. When you are faced with the unknown, it is highly likely that you might go through a period of doubt and fear. This could cause you to start self-medicating in the ways that you feel will work most effectively. With the threat of the Coronavirus that is currently underway, you may feel anxious and stressed for yourself and your loved ones.
In case you are also struggling with alcoholism, there is a high probability that you may experience anxiety as one of the side effects of this disorder. This could enhance your feelings of unease over the confusing time caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
In the same way, your lack of fully understand the real potential of the virus due to receiving contradictory information online and on television as well as the fear that you will lose your financial support might make you feel scared.
Even so, reaching out for alcohol will only increase your anxiety. It will also make it much more lily that you will develop problematic patterns of alcohol abuse over the long term - meaning that you will eventually require addiction treatment.
Research studies have shown that there is a relationship between alcohol use disorders and anxiety. Both alcohol withdrawal and prolonged drinking can increase your incidence of anxiety.
In a recent study, for instance, it was established that over 18 percent of people with generalized anxiety disorder were self-medicating the condition by drinking alcohol. 3.3 percent of those struggling with panic disorder also self-medicated with alcohol while 13 percent with anxiety who drank alcohol ended up struggling with alcoholism. This is according to the NESARC - the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.4
To deal with your feelings of anxiety, you should consider keeping away from social media. You can also limit the total amount of time that you spend watching the news on any given day.
It is also recommended that you become more proactive about your mental health. This could potentially help you reduce the triggers that continue keeping you in a state of worry on a constant basis.
Although the threat posed by COVID-19 is still real, you need to ensure that your mental health and wellness in your main priority. This is why it might be useful to ensure that you get enough rest and sleep, eat balanced meals, continue (or start) exercising, and spend some time in nature.
The CDC - the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - has been trying to flatten the curve as well as reduce the spread of COVID-19 by advising Americans to observe social distancing measures, stay at home, and keep at least 6 feet away from other people while in public. People are also advised against congregating in groups that are comprised of more than 10 people at any given time.
This recommendation is a bit challenging for people who are already struggling with alcoholism. This is because it might make you feel lonely and alone. Research studies have reported that social withdrawal can increase depression and loneliness - which are also factors that are associated with higher rates of substance abuse.
In all of these situations, isolating yourself from family and friends might be important to minimizing COVID-19 from spreading. However, it also has the unintended adverse effect of taking you away from the support system that was useful to your long term recovery from alcoholism.
While struggling with alcohol abuse, it is essential that you create and maintain healthy social connections. This can fuel your motivation to continue working your way towards sobriety as well as staying away from alcohol.
This is why it is not exactly surprising that during the Coronavirus pandemic, you might find yourself feeling more vulnerable than you used to. As a result, this could potentially trigger a relapse.
Thankfully, it is now easier to connect with loved ones through technology wherever and whenever you are. It is recommended that you use your time to speak with therapists, family members, and friends - or anyone else who can be useful to you during these uneasy times.
As you continue abiding by the social distancing measures put in place, you might also want to consider seeking out addiction treatment programs that have been offering virtual support group meetings - in case you would like to join one over the internet.
The Coronavirus and its family of other viruses - as well as the human illnesses that are associated with them - are not new to humanity. However, COVID-19 is a new virus that might cause symptoms ranging from the mild to the severe. It can also prove to be potentially more serious and even lethal in some cases.
This could occur if you are above the age of 65 years, you have a weakened immune system, or you are struggling with other pre-existing medical conditions. Research studies at this time point out that about 1 out of every 6 individuals who contract the virus will become seriously ill and require emergency medical attention.
Through the years, studies have reported an association between a weakened immune system and excessive alcohol consumption. This is particularly true if you are already susceptible to pneumonia.
As a result, if you have been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, you might be among the most vulnerable populations for the Coronavirus. Even if you think that you might already have your alcohol consumption under control, it is important to keep in mind that research studies have pointed out that even those who do not drink alcohol chronically can still end up struggling with negative health consequences. Acute binge drinking, for instance, is now known to compromise the immune system.
Ongoing alcohol abuse can also cause you to develop issues with the cardiopulmonary system comprised of the lungs and the heart. With the Coronavirus going around, it is essential that you ensure that your body is functioning at its highest level. This is the only way it is going to be able to fight off the various symptoms caused by the virus.
Doing so could also potentially decrease the harm that is associated with COVID-19. However, you still need to take care even as you try to get sober and overcome your alcoholism.
Although you might be tempted to go cold turkey and stop drinking alcohol altogether until the right treatment and vaccine for the virus is found, you need to remember that you have a high risk of developing alcohol withdrawal symptoms if you do so. These symptoms can be serious or even potentially life-threatening.
To keep you as safe and comfortable as possible, most addiction treatment programs will offer a medically supervised detox program as the first step in overcoming your alcoholism. Even though this condition is a chronic and relapsing disease, ongoing recovery efforts and professional treatment could be managed effectively.
Addiction treatment for problematic drinking can also stop, reverse, or slow down most of the otherwise progressive health issues that are associated with alcohol consumption. This is why it might be in your best interests to consider enrolling in such a treatment program instead of trying to quit drinking cold turkey.
Coronavirus, Trauma, and Substance Abuse
The trauma caused by the Coronavirus pandemic has already been leading to a nationwide spike in the rates of substance abuse and addiction according to experts. Researchers working in the addiction treatment and recovery field, for instance, report that the trauma caused by the pandemic might cause an increase in the national levels of addiction.
According to an analysis that was published by the CDC - the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - in 2008, for instance, reported that the hospitalization rates caused by alcohol use disorders shot up by 35 percent thanks to the Hurricane Katrina.
However, Katrina - and 9/11 - were still geographically limited in some ways according to the NIH - the National Institutes of Health. With COVID-19, however, the Coronavirus is everywhere all the time.
The surge in the deliveries for alcohol and runs on liquor stores are now showing that many Americans across the country are turning to one of the most common form of OTC - over the counter - drug for anxiety relief during the pandemic caused by the virus.
Experts are now predicting that this could cause a sharp rise in the rates of substance abuse and addiction in the United States. Figures reported during past crises also suggest that the trauma caused during this period could last for several years into the future. The ways in which people have been coping with the virus could also serve as a new source of grief.
The University of South Carolina published findings from a study in 2006 that showed that survivors of Hurricane Katrina were consuming alcohol, experiencing problems related to alcohol consumption, and smoking cigarettes at rates that were substantially higher than those experienced by people who did not experience the hurricane.
During times of turmoil such as these, people have to deal with stress and trauma. Traumatic incidents and stressors, on the other hand, can cause an increase in the rates of substance abuse and addiction.
SAMHSA - the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - has also reported that call volumes have not changed in recent weeks. This is from the figures gathered from its round the clock hotline that offers treatment referrals and information for people struggling with substance abuse.
However, if the past is to be believed, the impact of the Coronavirus might not be visible for some months or years. This is because dependency on alcohol takes some time to develop.
Hurricane Katrina is a good example. By 2008, about 3 years after Katrina made landfall, hospitalization rates involving substance abuse and addiction in Louisiana rose by over 35 percent - in comparison to the year right before the storm hit. This was according to data published by the CDC.
To this end, it is not exactly surprising that experts now fear that this is likely to happen on a national scale. The signal factor is the idea that COVID-19 is a global pandemic according to the NIH - the National Institutes of Health. Although Hurricane Katrina was geographically limited, the Coronavirus is almost everywhere at the same time.
The impact of the disease could be similar to that caused when people survive a disaster. When this happens, you lose loved ones, friends, and family. This is also similar to what happens when you come back from war and end up developing PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to PTSD, it is highly likely that you may find yourself struggling with an alcohol use disorder at the end of the Coronavirus pandemic.
However, trauma will not just lead to substance abuse and addiction down the line. Even today, it is causing some people who are already struggling with alcoholism to suffer a relapse. Others are continuing to maintain their dependence on alcohol because they are no longer able or willing to kick the habit.
The problem is compounded by the fact that one chemical dependency can encourage another one. This is why it is reported that about 50 percent of all the people struggling with an alcohol use disorder also smoke tobacco cigarettes. This means that they have chronic pulmonary problems that might make them more likely to develop complicated medical symptoms if they contract COVID-19 - including but not limited to respiratory failure.
Researchers have also pointed out that COVID-19 might hit people with substance use disorders particularly harder than the rest of the population. The Coronavirus attacks the lungs. As a result, it might prove to be especially severe as a threat if you vape, smoke marijuana and tobacco, or drink alcohol.
If you are struggling with alcoholism, it is also highly likely that you may be experiencing incarceration or homelessness. In case you are in any of these circumstances, it could pose unique challenges in the transmission of COVID-19.
On the other hand, if you have co-occurring conditions at the same time as your alcohol use disorder - such as respiratory diseases and cardiovascular disease - it is highly likely that they might worsen your prognosis if you contract the Coronavirus.
The other risks that you stand to run include a decreased access to the health care services that you might need, an increase in the risk of incarceration, and less chances of having housing security. Already, there is limited access to various health care facilities. However, if clinics and hospitals are pushed to their limits and capacity by COVID-19, it means that you will experience further barriers to getting addiction treatment.
Getting Help for Alcoholism
Many addiction treatment and rehabilitation facilities are still open. This is because federal, state, and local governments have termed them as essential service providers even during Coronavirus crisis that is currently plaguing the United States as well as the rest of the globe.
These programs are available and ready to help you overcome your alcohol use disorder as you work towards long term health, recovery, and wellness. They understand the social anxiety and fear that is associated with the virus. They also recognize their responsibility to support the ongoing efforts that are currently underway to reduce and eventually eliminate all the challenges that you may be facing.
Addiction treatment centers are also monitoring and updating their policies and procedures as required in line with guidance provided by the CDC, federal authorities, state governments, and the WHO - the World Health Organization.
Updates and changes for COVID-19 have been evolving rapidly. As a result, they have led to chances in the recommendations, protocols, and policies available for drug and alcohol rehab facilities across the United States.
The important thing to keep in mind is that most of these centers are still committed to supporting their clients - as well as their families and loved ones - who are struggling with an alcohol use disorder or impacted by alcoholism.
Now, it is possible to find a rehab center that offers a safe recovery environment for clients looking to overcome their addiction to alcohol and attain freedom as a result. They also provide a community comprised of caring and like-minded professionals who are going to oversee the recovery journey.
For alcoholics who are - for one reason or the other - unable to leave their homes, drug treatment facilities are now hosting support group meetings, which are mostly free for people who have been impacted in one way or the other by COVID-19.
The important thing to keep in mind is that there is a relationship between the Coronavirus and alcoholism - in the sense that the two are pandemics that might lead to more challenges for people who are struggling with an alcohol use disorder unless they seek treatment.
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