Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
COVID-19 and alcohol
April 16, 2020

As Alcohol Sales Soar, WHO Warns Drinking Can Increase Risk of Catching COVID-19


WHO: Don’t Drink During COVID-19

In a statement issued this week, the World Health Organization cautioned the public against consuming alcohol during the novel coronavirus pandemic. After previously calling the substance an “unhelpful coping strategy,” the WHO has since doubled down on its stance, warning Americans that drinking during this time could actually increase your risk of contracting COVID-19. Data shows that U.S. online alcohol sales have soared 243% since coronavirus reached the country, indicating that citizens are ordering wine, beer, and spirits at an unprecedented rate.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we should really ask ourselves what risks we are taking in leaving people under lockdown in their homes with a substance that is harmful both in terms of their health and the effects of their behavior on others,” said Carina Ferreira-Borges, WHO Europe’s program manager for alcohol and illicit drugs.

Myth: Alcohol Prevents COVID-19

As news of the coronavirus spreads throughout the country, so too do myths surrounding this illness and its prevention. For example, many less-than-reputable posts on social media have encouraged Americans to consume high-strength alcohol to “kill” the COVID-19 virus. Unfortunately, this internet rumor has disastrous consequences.

Consuming any form of alcohol carries significant health risks, including health vulnerability, increased risk-taking behaviors, violence, and the exacerbation of mental health issues. Drinking high-strength alcohols (ethanol/ethyl alcohol), especially those adulterated with methanol, can result in death or severe health issues. Additionally, there is evidence that alcohol consumption is associated with increased vulnerability to COVID-19.

Fact: Alcohol Makes You Vulnerable to COVID-19

It is well-known that alcohol compromises the human body’s immune system. This substance disrupts immune pathways in complex and seemingly paradoxical ways; these disruptions impair your body’s ability to fend off infection, while also contributing to organ damage and slowing your recovery from tissue injury.

In a 2015 paper titled “Alcohol and the Immune System,” researchers explained the adverse immune-related health effects linked to heavy alcohol consumption. These include greater likelihood of acute respiratory stress syndromes, sepsis, alcoholic liver disease, cancers, post-operative complications, and slower recovery from physical trauma.

Of these, the most concerning is acute respiratory stress. Alcohol disrupts the function of cilia in the upper airways, impairs the function of immune cells, and weakens the function of the epithelia in the lower airways. This alcohol-related lung damage may go undetected until a drinker contracts a respiratory illness, in which instance they will experience more severe lung diseases than those seen in nondrinkers. This places drinkers at higher risk for complications upon contraction of COVID-19.

Know the Truth About Alcohol

In a fact sheet issued this week, the WHO explained the link between alcohol and coronavirus. In this document, they cautioned individuals about the risks of consuming alcohol during a global pandemic. Their warnings include…

  • There is no “safe limit” of alcohol that you can consume without short-term and long-term health effects. The risk of damage to your health increases with each drink consumed.
  • Alcohol use, especially heavy use, weakens your immune system. This reduces your ability to cope with infectious diseases.
  • Alcohol is known to cause certain types of cancer, even in small quantities.
  • Alcohol is a mind-altering substance, affecting your thoughts, judgment, behavior, and decision-making abilities.
  • Alcohol is a risk to unborn children at any time during pregnancy.
  • Alcohol increases the risk, severity, and frequency of interpersonal violence. This includes sexual violence, youth violence, elder abuse, child abuse, and intimate partner violence.
  • Alcohol increases your risk of accidental death and injury from drowning, falling, and getting into a car accident.
  • Heavy alcohol use increases the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, one of the most severe complications of coronavirus.

The WHO’s Advice

The World Health Organization has advised citizens to limit their alcohol consumption during the coronavirus outbreak. Naturally, the ideal amount of alcohol you would drink during this time is none at all. If you’re looking to begin recovery from alcoholism, this is the perfect time to seek treatment and break free of addiction.

People with alcohol use disorders are at greater risk of COVID-19. This is a multifaceted issue; not only are alcoholics more prone to weakened immune systems, but they are also more likely to experience incarceration or homelessness than other members of the population. It is therefore essential that those with this substance use disorder receive support and professional help during this time.

If you or someone you love has a drinking problem, please consider the following:

  • Right now, social cues and pressure surrounding alcohol consumption have evaporated. Parties, gatherings, restaurants, bars, and clubs are inaccessible. This could present a unique opportunity to decrease or cease drinking altogether.
  • HIPAA-compliant teletherapy is now available from many treatment centers. Through this approach, those seeking support can speak with accredited addiction treatment professionals from the comfort of their own homes.
  • AA and NA have also moved their services online in the wake of COVID-19, meaning that you can attend virtual meetings from home. You don’t even have to get off the couch to access a vast network of peer support and accountability during this time.
  • You can practice social distancing without socially isolating yourself. Be sure to reach out to loved ones for support during the days of self-quarantine that lie ahead.
  • Work to maintain a routine as much as you can, while eliminating drinking wherever possible. Don’t be tempted to grab a beer in the middle of the workday. Instead, dispose of any alcohol in your house and focus on maintaining sobriety.
  • If you have a severe alcohol use disorder, seek professional help. Don’t try to detox at home by yourself. This process is best completed under medical supervision.

Finding Recovery in These Uncertain Times

At Beach House, we understand that beginning the journey to recovery is both a rewarding and challenging decision to make. Our state-of-the-art facility is located in Juno Beach, Florida, surrounded by 50 acres of remote beach preserve. This oasis provides a calm, restorative place to break free of drugs and alcohol once and for all. Our leadership team has worked hard to implement CDC and WHO protocols regarding coronavirus, ensuring that all clients remain safe and healthy during their stay with us.

To learn more about the Beach House difference, contact us today. Our compassionate admissions staff will be standing by.