BY MILAN POLK
CHICAGO — The pandemic has everyone stuck at home, where alcohol and snacks are within easy reach. So, if you find that you’re drinking more, you’re not alone.
From March to June, the COVID Symptom Study found 20% of their almost 100,000 participants reported increased drinking since the pandemic began. During the week of March 21 alone, U.S alcohol sales rose 55 percent, according to the market research firm Nielsen.
Dr. Subhash C. Pandey, a professor and the director of the Alcohol Research Center at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said it’s understandable that people are turning to alcohol right now as we’re all going through a traumatic event.
“It has been very well established that (traumatic events) promote alcohol abuse. And
it’s established that people drink to relax or to self-medicate,” said Pandey.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. For people who usually drink moderately but have noticed an uptick in how much they’re consuming, cutting out alcohol for a month may be helpful.
For Matt Wilson, a Chicago born software engineer, cutting out drinking for one month about five years ago offered noticeable results. Now he’s recommending others take on a No Alcohol August to better their health.
“I actually lost 12 pounds,” said Wilson, who decided to reduce his drinking to meet his fitness goals.
Besides a no drinking challenge, people can also focus on reducing stress and sadness.
Pandey said social events can help decrease stress and loneliness that may cause people to drink.
If someone lives alone, there’s no outside influence to stop them from unhealthy drinking habits. Activities like choosing a month without alcohol or attending online events with friends may reduce stress and anxiety in people’s lives.
But cutting out alcohol cold turkey isn’t for everyone. Pandey recommends talking to an expert in alcohol addiction for advice.