It may seem like the absolute WORST time to get help for alcoholism during coronavirus, but stop, for a minute, to consider just how much humans turn to alcohol in times of stress or crisis.
COVID-19 — a.k.a. the coronavirus — is no different. Consider:
- In early March, a group of New Jersey neighbors “gathered for (a) coronavirus-themed fête, complete with face masks, ‘Quarantini’ cocktails, Corona beers and the board game Pandemic.” 
- In Ohio, a popular sports Twitter personality came up with “Wine With DeWine,” a drinking game created around Gov. Mike DeWine’s press briefings  — “participants are supposed to drink every time the phrases ‘Flatten the Curve’ and ‘we are all in this together’ are uttered, for example.”
- The New York Times reports that  across the country, college students “have used Zoom to attempt to replicate some sense of normalcy. Parties, sorority socials and beer pong nights have found a new home on Zoom” and “some students developed Zoom-themed drinking games for Zoom parties, adjusting the popular game ‘never have I ever’ to ‘never have I ever left quarantine.’”
According to Insider.com , “In these uncertain times, it seems people across the globe are turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism — especially after pubs and bars have been closed in many countries and residents are being told to stay at home.” But what happens when alcoholics, who already use alcohol as a coping mechanism, are placed in a similar situation?
It can be problematic, to say the least … but it also might mean that the time to get help for alcoholism during coronavirus is right now, while the pandemic is ongoing. Why, you ask?
Because Your Alcoholism Might Be Getting Worse
Before they cross the threshold into full-blown alcoholism, many drinkers manage to hold down jobs, maintain relationships and, for all practical purposes, keep things together with at least some semblance of normalcy. We call those individuals “functional alcoholics,” because they’re able to do just that: function. In a time when normal routines are upended because of COVID-19, however, the strict rules and regimens that functional alcoholics use to maintain that normalcy may go out the window.
Consider: Dr. Aiysha Malik, a technical officer at the World Health Organization Europe’s mental health and substance abuse department, recently went on record  describing alcohol as an “unhelpful coping strategy” that “can make things worse,” she said in an interview with British news outlet The Independent. Added Dr. Richard Piper, the chief executive of Alcohol Change UK: “With routines out of the window, we might well find ourselves reaching for a drink more often.”
In other words, functional alcoholics often plan their lives around drinking in methodical and exact ways: They’ll get through work and then start drinking as soon as they join friends or coworkers at the local bar at 5:30 p.m. Now, however, the bar is closed, the functional alcoholic may be working from home and day-drinking suddenly seems much more attractive, given the lack of on-the-job oversight or worries about driving under the influence.
And given that a number of states have allowed alcohol sales to continue as “essential businesses,” the supply seems to be willing to accommodate the demand: According to the financial news organization CNBC , online alcohol orders have increased by 20 percent, the alcohol-on-demand delivery app Drizly “saw a 300% spike in sales earlier this month as states and cities shut bars and restaurants and coronavirus social distancing keep people at home” and “according to scheduling platform Doodle, there’s been a 296% increase in group meetings booked specifically for virtual happy hours and drinking events in March.”
Clearly, those who enjoy drinking aren’t having trouble finding a reason to continue to do so during the coronavirus outbreak … but for those who suffer from alcohol use disorder, the opportunity to feed their alcohol addiction may also be easy to justify because of the pandemic.
Get Help for Alcoholism During Coronavirus: So You Don’t Die
Everyone agrees that excessive alcohol consumption can have potentially harmful health effects — but those who would like to avoid contracting COVID-19 would do well to remember that alcohol weakens the immune system through damage to the digestive tract, according to Insider : “By damaging those cells in your intestines, it can make it easier for pathogens to cross into your bloodstream," Nate Favini, MD, medical lead at Forward, a preventive primary care practice, told Insider.
Of course, those who suffer from alcoholism know full well that it’s almost impossible to simply quit drinking — which brings up another good reason why individuals should get help for alcoholism during coronavirus: The lack of alcohol could potentially be hazardous to those whose bodies are dependent on it. The effects of alcohol-related withdrawal are of particular concern in Pennsylvania, where the state closed liquor stores to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“Alcohol withdrawal is commonly seen in the emergency department and it can be a life-threatening condition,” one emergency physician practicing in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, told Fox News . “Treatment can take several days, leading to lengthy hospital stays. There is definitely concern that an uptick in cases could cause further strain on health care resources during this pandemic.”
Henry Kranzler, a University of Pennsylvania professor of psychiatry and director of the school’s Center for Studies of Addiction, suggests that individuals with alcohol use disorder who are uncertain whether liquor stores will continue to be open in their area should taper their supply — because alcohol-related complications that require medical attention can put them at risk of “sharing space with people who may have the virus,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer .
Rather than ride out the pandemic by continuing to damage the immune system or, even worse, risking a medical crisis because of alcohol withdrawal, there’s always another logical option: deciding to get help for alcoholism during coronavirus.
Get Help for Alcoholism During Coronavirus: For Your Mental Health
If there’s a single phrase that COVID-19 has brought to the forefront of the global lexicon, it’s “social distancing.” Individuals are encouraged to maintain 6 feet between themselves and others if they must venture out in public, and many areas have issued shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders. While many people are using this time of peace and quiet to enjoy much-needed down time at home, alcoholics can find it taxing on their mental health.
“Humans, which presumably include you, are social animals,” writes Forbes healthcare contributor Bruce Yee . “You normally do all kinds of social things such as talk with friends, go to parties, and yell ‘wooo’ not by decree but because you want to do so. Taking away all of that contact can make things difficult … social distancing measures have the impact of keeping you from your normal interactions and daily routine.”
For alcoholics, social activities are often an excuse to drink anyway, but doing so around others and with others can at least provide some measure of accountability — or at least the appearance of respectability. “Drinking alone is often considered a sign of a serious problem, evidence of depression or even an indication of possible alcoholism,” writes Eric Asimov for The New York Times . “Psychological treatises delve into the potential underlying problems revealed by solo drinking, while country songs lock on to the inevitable tears.”
In other words, alcoholics who usually put limits on themselves socially may find doing so pointless if they’re isolated or self-quarantined … and that can exacerbate their drinking into previously undiscovered territories of alcoholism.
Community Is the Answer
In a 2015 TED Talk , Johann Hari proposed that “the opposite of addiction is connection.” It’s difficult to establish that connection in day-to-day life anyway, but during a time of “social distancing” and enforced isolation? Forget about it. Even traditional means of connection for recovering addicts and alcoholics have been impacted by COVID-19: “One common expression you hear in [Alcoholics Anonymous] is, ‘Don’t wander into your head alone. It’s a dangerous neighborhood,’ ” chief scientific officer Deni Carise of Recovery Centers of America told The Washington Post . “What do you do when you can’t go to a meeting? How do you get support when you can’t meet with other people in recovery? I’m worried that the isolation will lead people to start questioning their recovery or put them at risk.”
A residential inpatient alcoholism treatment program can provide that connection. Of course, it’s imperative to ensure that (a) an alcohol rehab is still accepting patients during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and (b) that facility is following rigorous screening measures to keep its campus protected from the virus, but individuals who want to get help for alcoholism during coronavirus can find the recovering communities they need to get their sobriety journeys started — even if the world is a place of uncertainty and chaos because of COVID-19.
Get Help for Alcoholism During Coronavirus: Sobriety Now
If you’re addicted to alcohol, then you understand all too well that you’re putting your life in jeopardy. It’s estimated that 88,000 people die annually from alcohol-related causes , and while COVID-19 may mean you’re not out driving drunk these days, drinking at home alone can lead to any number of dangerous accidents that can endanger your health and well-being.
Yes, COVID-19 is a serious pandemic. Yes, you should follow all recommended precautions by public health officials to minimize your risk. But while it’s easy to classify a death by alcoholism as an undetermined fate that may or may not happen, it’s important not to dismiss or downplay its seriousness. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health , 14.4 million Americans ages 18 and older suffer from alcohol use disorder (the medical term for alcoholism) — but less than 8 percent of them received treatment for it.
For those who want to get help for alcoholism during coronavirus, the idea of putting off doing so is a tempting one. But as Brandon Fernandez-Comer, the chief operating officer of a Los Angeles-based treatment center told Los Angeles Magazine recently , “It’s really important to be aware that while this thing is front and center, there’s still absolutely an ongoing opioid and … a methamphetamine crisis.”
And across the country, the statistic bear out that there’s an alcohol crisis as well — one possibly being exacerbated by COVID-19. Will drug and alcohol treatment centers still be open after the ongoing pandemic ends? Absolutely. Will those who suffer still be able to get help for alcoholism during coronavirus if they so choose? Of course.
But will they survive their alcoholism in order to do so? That’s up in the air … but definitely one worth considering by those who need treatment.