Alcohol use soars in the age of COVID

Aaron Matthew Laxton, LCSW
4 min readOct 25, 2020

New data indicates that through the first eight months of the COVID-19 crisis, American adults have sharply increased their consumption of alcohol, drinking on more days per month, and to more significant excess. Heavy drinking among women, significantly, has soared.

The RAND Corporation released a study supported by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which compared adults’ drinking habits from 2019 to surveying 1,540 adults. Based on the results, addiction treatment professionals say they’re concerned that people may be choosing to self-medicate their mental health symptoms brought about by the pandemic. The numbers in the United States reveal the real stress that COVID is placing on the community, not just individuals who had previously had challenges with alcohol misuse.

As stay-at-home orders began in some US states as a mitigation strategy for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmission, Nielsen reported a 54% increase in national sales of alcohol for the week ending March 21, 2020, compared with one year before; online sales increased 262% from 2019. Three weeks later, the World Health Organization warned that alcohol use during the pandemic might exacerbate health concerns and risk-taking behaviors. Increased stress is the new reality for everyone learning to live with the new realities of the pandemic. Individuals who had healthy support and coping skills before the pandemic are experiencing challenges as the COVID stretches into its eighth month, with no end in sight.

Between 2019 and now, during the pandemic, both men and women have reported an increase in the frequency of binge drinking episodes, defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within a couple of hours. For women, that count rose by an alarming half.

During the shutdown, innovative ways capitalize on people’s feelings of anxiety and fear have increased, with online app sales connecting consumers with liquor stores for home delivery. One such company reported that they saw a growth surge of 700–800% during the early lockdown days. According to a report from Nielsen, online alcohol sales and alcohol delivery rose nationwide once the lockdown orders began, which was published by QZ. This trend demonstrates a disturbing trend of increasing alcohol…

Aaron Matthew Laxton, LCSW

I am a psychotherapist who writes about mental health, addiction, recovery and the impact of substance use from personal experience. Views are my own.