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Rise in alcohol consumption during coronavirus pandemic causes concern among local health experts

Confronting friends and loved ones about the issue of alcohol abuse can be difficult due to the stigma surrounding the issue.

SAN ANTONIO — American adults are reportedly drinking more alcohol during the pandemic, prompting health experts to bring awareness to the dangers of overconsumption.

“Isolation, depression, anxiety—all of those are a perfect storm for somebody consuming more alcohol,” said Abigail Moore, CEO of the San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Awareness.

Alcohol consumption among adults rose 14% between 2019 and 2020, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

High stress levels sparked by the consequences of the pandemic have contributed to the increase in alcohol intake. A report published in the journal Preventive Medicine indicates people suffering from anxiety and depression are more likely to report an incline in drinking during the pandemic compared to those without mental illness.

Moore noted she’s been learning of individuals of all ages dealing with alcohol problems.

“We are getting reports from parents of underage drinking, binge-drinking by young people and definitely binge-drinking by older adults and adults who are either working from home, not working at all or just struggling with the challenges that mentally have been developed due to the COVID pandemic,” Moore said.

Dr. Chris Arnold, senior medical director at WellMed, has been working with dozens of older adults who’ve felt isolated from family due to coronavirus safety concerns. As a result, they’ve turned to the bottle more often.

“That can be very, very depressing for these older adults who are so connected,” Arnold said.

Arnold understands checking up with friends or loved ones about their potentially destructive alcohol habits can be difficult. He stressed alcoholism carries a certain stigma.

“It can be a sensitive subject when you start addressing, 'How much are you drinking? How big are those glasses and what kind of whiskey are you drinking?'" Arnold said.

Moore believes the cycle of alcohol abuse will continue to be problematic as people receive the vaccine and feel emboldened to venture out into the community.

“Our concern is drinking and driving will go up, (along with) other fatalities, assaults, other things that go along with heavy consumption of alcohol,” Moore said.

Whether it’s through WellMed, SACADA or another organization, Arnold is reminding the public there are avenues for help.

WellMed’s parent company OptumCare has a hotline for anyone seeking support with addiction. The number to call is 866-342-6892.

To learn more about the services provided by SACADA, click here.