Alcohol use may have increased because of pandemic, Nielsen report shows


The off-premise alcohol sales rose 34 percent in the nine-week period ending May 2 compared to 2019, according to Nielsen data.

This increase has been attributed to alcohol becoming a socially acceptable way to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were in an alcohol epidemic – killing more than 88,000 people a year – before the pandemic,” Dr. Joseph Garbely, chief medical officer at Caron Treatment Centers, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to addiction and behavioral healthcare, said. “However, in recent months, alcohol has alarmingly become the universally acceptable way of dealing with COVID-19 induced or exacerbated anxiety. In many cases, people are turning to alcohol because it’s the most easily accessible substance, and they underestimate its effects. It’s a dangerous cycle, and physicians are facing an uphill battle as they adapt to treating patients via telehealth while an ever-increasing number of mental health issues plague the public.”

Millions of people, including those with a history of misusing opioids, are turning to alcohol, Garbely said. Alcohol is a depressant with the potential of making depression, anxiety, and sleep disruption worse, he said.

Approximately a third of Americans show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a record high because of the pandemic.