Women Are Dying Of Alcoholism During COVID-19
COVID-19 is causing a spike in alcohol-related deaths in women. Not only are ladies more sensitive to alcohol, but many women are also suffering from deep isolation, grief, and financial uncertainty due to the COVID-19 global health crisis.
The outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 (Coronavirus disease 2019) has changed our daily lives. We are now asked to wear masks in public, keep a distance of at least six feet from our peers, and wash our hands incessantly. We cannot attend movies, eat out, and visit each other without risking contraction of the novel coronavirus.
COVID-19 has affected every person in every family across the United States and the world. Due to COVID-19, most people are sequestered in their homes as they may be considered at high risk of contracting COVID-19. Or it could be that we are working to contain the spread of the virus. Others are working from home, which means they, too, are not out as much as they were during pre-COVID-19 times.
Being at home from COVID-19 has brought about a whole new set of destructive issues for many people, especially women. One of the consequences of this social separation and isolation is a massive spike in alcohol-related deaths among females.
A research letter by JAMA Network found that women experienced a 39% increase in adverse consequences associated with alcohol use during the covid-19 pandemic – indicative of increased alcohol-related problems for nearly 1 in 10 women. While alcohol consumption rose by an average of 10%; for women it rose by a staggering 41%.
Further data backs up this 41% increase in alcohol use for women. Nielsen data from March 2020 reveals that alcohol sales across the United States were up 27.6 percent for wine, 26.4 percent for spirits, and 14 percent for beer, cider, and malt, compared to the same week in March 2019.
COVID-19 is affecting our society and will indeed have robust, deep-rooted, and adverse effects on our health and wellness. The CDC warns that almost 100,000 people die every year from excessive alcohol use. This is only going to increase during the pandemic. First, some warnings from the CDC concerning alcohol:
An increase in alcohol use, coupled with the health and well-being issues caused by COVID-19 can only mean one thing for women, and it is not good: the amount of women suffering alcohol substance use disorders will increase and intensify, so more women will sadly die from excessive alcohol consumption.
Women Are More Sensitive To Alcohol
Scientific studies through the decades have shown, over and over again, that there are major differences in the effects that alcohol has on men versus its effects on women. These studies show women’s greater sensitivity to alcohol, and how they have a much higher likelihood of developing an alcohol use disorder. Women are also more likely to suffer from the effects of alcohol abuse and drink amounts of alcohol that their bodies cannot handle. There are a few proven scientific reasons why women have an increased sensitivity to alcohol than their male counterparts.
First, women’s biological dispositions are different from men’s. For example, if a man and a woman drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman will have a higher blood alcohol content than the man. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Men and women metabolize alcohol differently due to differences in gastric tissue activity. In fact, after drinking comparable amounts of alcohol, women have higher blood ethanol concentrations. As a result, women become intoxicated from smaller quantities of alcohol than men.” These unwanted effects will cause an increased number of women to become addicted to alcohol and eventually increase their probability of dying from excessive alcohol intake.
Also, genetics can play a vital role in the chances of developing an alcohol substance use disorder in women. When you drink alcohol, enzymes break it down in your body. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains that there are 2 basic enzymes that break alcohol down in your body. One is called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Both ADH and ALDH are encoded differently by different genes. Plus, there are alleles of these genes that tell the enzymes to act in different ways, depending on things like ethnic distributions and other hereditary factors. So, which ADH or ALDH alleles you have will influence your level of alcohol consumption, your risk of developing alcoholism, and the level of destruction in your body that alcohol abuse will create.
Social And Environmental Factors Contributing To Female Alcohol Abuse During COVID-19
Trauma can play an enormous role in someone’s chances of developing alcoholism. Trauma might result from COVID-19-related social isolation, job loss, or domestic abuse – another health concern on the rise due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic. And women are most likely to be abused by a domestic partner. Now that many women are home more often, some may experience increased exposure to an already abusive partner.
Another factor could be isolation from our family, friends, and loved ones. All people are social creatures by nature and tend to turn to family and friends for guidance and support. Remove that support, and countless women may turn to alcohol or other substances to try and feel better or less lonely.
Loneliness can cause depression and anxiety. Women may feel that a drink will help drown those feelings out. However, alcohol abuse is a depressant and will only exacerbate feelings of depression and anxiety.
Over 1 million people have now died from COVID-19 in the United States. As a result, many people, including women, are experiencing immense grief due to loss of friends or family members.
The majority of all jobs lost in March 2020 were held by women.
Job loss is also a significant issue among women, especially here in the United States since the pandemic. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that women held less than fifty percent of all jobs in the United States before the epidemic. The majority all jobs lost in March 2020 were jobs held by women.
Many of these women are the breadwinners of their families. How are they able to pay their bills and feed their families? The stress has become unbearable for many women, causing them to resort to drinking alcohol to cope.
Getting Help: What Treatment Options Are Available
Earlier, we mentioned that 100,000 people (on average) die from excessive alcohol consumption in a standard, non-pandemic year. Trends are showing that this number could significantly rise due to COVID-19.
But there are ways to get help. There are several options during COVID-19 for you or a loved one to receive alcohol substance use disorder treatment.
Addiction and substance abuse treatment is typically offered in two basic settings: inpatient programs and outpatient programs.
Inpatient treatment typically involves a two-week or more extended stay at an additional treatment facility. Available treatment services could include alcohol withdrawal and detoxification management, offered in a highly-structured environment.
Staying in a facility allows people the support, structure, and accountability necessary to set up a successful and long-lasting life of sobriety.
Outpatient programs are another setting for those recovering from alcohol addiction to seek solace and long-lasting recovery from their disease. In outpatient, you do not stay overnight at your chosen treatment facility.
In either an inpatient or outpatient setting, you will be offered different therapeutic modalities to treat your substance use disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are two treatments offered at many recovery facilities, including Hotel California by the Sea.
Other treatments that can help men and women recover from addition and other co-occurring disorders might include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), mindfulness exercises, trauma therapy, family therapy, group outings, grief and loss counseling, psychiatric consultations, case management services, and educational consultations and training.
Remember, you are not alone. Many people (men and women) are suffering from alcohol abuse related to the pandemic. But you are also not alone in having people to help you through alcohol cessation and recovery.