The isolation, unemployment and disorganized routines caused by the pandemic are leading to an increase in alcohol consumption in different parts of the world.
In the United Kingdom, the British Liver Trust has reported a 500% increase in the number of calls received by its alcohol support center since the quarantine began in March.
In Brazil, a survey of behaviors carried out by Fiocruz between April and May identified, at the time, an average increase of 18% in alcohol consumption, between men and women. The age group with the greatest increase (25%) was 30 to 39 years old.
“The increase in alcohol consumption was associated with the frequency of feeling sad or depressed: the higher the frequency, the greater the increase in the use of alcoholic beverages”, said the research.
“Social isolation and a lack of human connection are major factors behind why some people turn to alcohol. So it is clear that the pandemic remains very harsh for many people,” says Laura Bunt, of the British support organization We Are With You.
Next, the BBC brings reports from Britons about the difficulties in facing alcohol addiction in the middle of a pandemic.
Tracy (fictitious name): ‘I got a medical license, so I could drink quarantine’
“With the lockdown (mandatory quarantine in the UK), I thought we were all going to die, so I was drunk for a whole week.
It protected me not to lose my job. I knew I was going to drink, so I called work (warning) that I had a sick leave. Covid-19 was a good cover-up: no one is seeing you, you can do everything over the phone.
As an alcoholic, I am very manipulative. And I’m a great liar when I’m drunk.
I bought six bottles of wine, one of vodka and one of cognac. I just wanted to die. I really wanted to kill myself. I felt like a complete failure, and that there was no way forward.
Even while drinking, I covered my nose – I didn’t even like the taste of alcohol. I just wanted to drink fast to fall by the wayside.
I have no plan B. No one is going to help me. I have nowhere to turn; I can’t even go to church next door.
It is difficult, but once you accept something that you cannot change, you have to work with what you have.
There is so much hope out there, so much life to be lived without alcohol or drugs. And all that’s left on my list is prison or death, and I don’t want any of them. I’ve already lost jobs because of him (alcohol), I’ve lost my children, my home and my dignity.
During the lockdown, I lost my head for a few days. It is the worst type of situation for anyone, (but) especially for alcoholics, addicts and people with mental health problems, when it comes to isolating themselves.
But I managed to get back on track. I’ve been sober for two months. Depression still persists. If I don’t drink, I can handle it. But the minute I get a drink, it’s gone.
I spend a lot of time at home alone, and this is difficult. I’ve had relapses before, but nowadays I call a friend to talk, I read. Thank God the library was reopened, it was my salvation.
Some meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous took place, but restricted to 20 people, for health reasons. They are having to go against one of their few traditions, which is not to refuse (the entry of) anyone.
At the beginning (of the pandemic), when I had a relapse, I had in mind that we were all going to die. Now I have another perspective, and I’m back on my way. “
Joseph Harrington: ‘Since the cure for addiction is human connection, it is very difficult to be isolated’
My experience with alcoholism and drug addiction started early. And it became a problem in my late teens. I woke up every morning or in the middle of the night already feeling withdrawal.
I was constantly sick, with itching, fever, hallucinations and from there came a sensation of clear lights around my vision; before I knew it, I was out of my mind. When I drank, I was semi-conscious and paralyzed.
At 29, in treatment, I was diagnosed with a condition called cerebellar ataxia, which is a scar on the back of the brain that affects the cerebral cortex – the part that sends messages from the brain to the spine and the rest of the body. It made me have convulsions and I couldn’t walk.
At 31, I was in a wheelchair. The damage I caused is permanent. I have chronic pain, and nerve endings have been damaged.
It’s as if I’m covered in lava, with a constant burning sensation in my body.
Living alone, the lockdown was very isolating and difficult. My mental health was not good. I felt isolated, trapped and lonely.
I couldn’t leave the house and there wasn’t much support at first. There were no meetings (support groups, the church was closed. It was very emotional. Not seeing people face to face is a very scary experience.
Addicted people should not isolate themselves, (because) healing is the connection. When you are disconnected from everything, it is difficult.
I know a lot of people wanting to go back to support meetings. I won’t be back until I think it’s safe. For now, I am living one day at a time. “
Susan (fictitious name): ‘My husband drinks up to six bottles of wine a day’
“My husband and I have been together for 19 years and he is a good man. I would not choose (drink) if I had that choice.
When he drinks, he is like ‘the doctor and the monster’. Sober, he is kind, generous, loyal, funny, loving. As soon as you get a drink, your personality turns, it becomes the opposite.
He was never physically violent towards me, but he is mentally very abusive and very destructive of his surroundings.
He drinks until he vomits, when he obviously can’t drink anymore. He goes from one bottle of wine a day to six bottles a day, if not more, and then we have to call the paramedics and go to the hospital.
When he comes back from the hospital, he doesn’t drink for about a month and a half. And then it starts all over again.
When he’s drunk, I have to keep him away from sharp objects, that kind of thing. It’s like I’m taking care of a small child.
We had an episode during the lockdown when the police showed up. He was calling an ambulance over the phone and he had to give me the phone because he couldn’t even speak. The operator heard him shouting and called the police.
Of course, the reopening of the pubs made it difficult, now he’s there drinking. And those who drink a lot do not remember to maintain social distance.
I know I have no control over his alcoholism, I have already accepted that there is nothing I can do.
It is my choice. Just because he is sick does not mean that I should leave him. I enjoy the moments when he is sober, because he is the love of my life. “
With BBC News report by Vicky Carter
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