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The New You: What to know about increased alcohol use during the pandemic

Too many of us have turned to alcohol to cope with the stress of the pandemic. So what are the concerns and how can you cut back?

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: The video in the top of the story ins from a previously published story.

During the coronavirus pandemic,  some of us have picked up some healthy habits like eating better or exercising more. Despite some taking up good new habits, there’s one habit that doctors have been seeing more of that concerns them: alcohol abuse.

"The data is very clear that Americans at least drink too much overall has a nation," said Dr. David Streem with the Cleveland Clinic's Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center.

If you find yourself reaching for a glass of the good stuff more often, you’re not alone. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, about 1 in 4 Americans are drinking more to deal with stress during this pandemic. For people with children between the ages of 5 and 7 years old, the rate was more than double.

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"I think a lot of people have been unable to relay on the [typical] coping strategies," Streem said. "Whether it would be work, exercise, or fun activities that we have been unable to access the pandemic and that creates an opening."

So how do you know if you’re drinking a little too much? The national standard for "binge drinking" is four drinks per a one to two-hour period for women and five drinks per a one to two-hour period for a man. 

There is also a term called "heavy drinking," which is defined as eight drinks per week for women and 15 drinks per week for men.

If you’re having trouble counting how many drinks you have consumed, Streem says pay attention to your behavior.

"[Think about] if you are routinely going over those binge drinking or heavy drinking limits," he said. "You’re getting in trouble at work, you’re having medical problems or your mood is just not where it should be every day those are all signs that this is becoming a problem."

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If you have a family history with drinking, experts say you should. Pay close attention to your drinking habits. While one drink every now and then won’t hurt anyone, the big concern is the long term effects," he said. "It has a lot of effect on neurochemicals that deal with memory, learning, attention."

Concerningly, Streem says during the pandemic, there’s been a significant reduction in the amount of people asking for help. That’s even after a lot more services were available online like virtual AA meetings.

"Overall, we’re seeing a reduction of demand in services over the space of the last 3 years. We’re trying to do more outreach and make sure that everyone knows that these services area are available," he explained.

RELATED: Kent State study finds that alcohol consumption among college students has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic

If you feel you need to start cutting back, there are even new mobile apps like Reframe, Drinker's Helper, I am Sober and Less-- each devoted to helping you reduce your drinking habits.

Help is always available. 

You can reach out to your primary care doctor for help, find resources through Ohio's Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services or you can call Cleveland Clinic’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center at 216.696.4300.

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