Has the Pandemic Caused More Drinking Problems?

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By Mayumi Elk Eagle, AMFT, APCC

During this quarantine time, it can be challenging for you to maintain your mental health. Researchers have found that drinking may be increasing since this COVID-19 pandemic started as a way to mask anxiety and fear from feeling uncertainty and avoiding facing reality.

If you are heavily relying on alcohol to forget the reality, obsessed about drinking, cannot stop drinking even though it is harming your health, you should talk to your primary care physician about your situation. If you are seeing a therapist, you can discuss your drinking habit. When you can be honest with yourself, you can best decide what to do next.

One significant sign that you may have a problem with alcohol is blackouts. There are two types of blackouts: “fragmentary blackouts,” where you only remember fragments of what happened while drinking, and “islands” where you don’t remember anything that happened (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2019). Blackouts are caused by high blood alcohol levels, which impairs your memory system in your brain. Blackouts are different from passing out. “During a blackout, a person is still awake, but their brain is not creating new memories” (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2019). If your family members or close friends mention things you said and did while drinking and you don’t remember it, you may have had a blackout.

You may feel resistant to thinking of yourself as an alcoholic even though you have noticed that you have a problem. You may have the misconception that alcoholics are people who have lost everything and are not able to sustain themselves, which is not entirely true. Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, the two founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, both had well-paying jobs, but they could not stop drinking despite their declining health, financial problems, and family issues.

Alcoholics Anonymous facilitates a twelve-step program to help alcoholics acquire sobriety and stay sober. Much scientific research has been done about the effectiveness of the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve-Step program’s approach. As neuroscience is advancing, researchers are finding how this approach works from a neuroscience perspective.

Before the pandemic, you could go to an Alcoholics Anonymous in-person meeting to find a solution to your suffering through the support of others who have also struggled with alcoholism.

Fortunately, you can still join the program and get support through the many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings held on Zoom. When you feel alone, I recommend you try to find a meeting and just be there. You don’t need to leave your home. You have no obligation, and no one will convince you that you are an alcoholic. You are the only one who can decide whether you are an alcoholic or not.


Alcoholics Anonymous. (n.d.). https://www.aa.org
Blum, K., Thompson, B., Demotrovics, Z., Femino, J., Giordano, J., Oscar-Berman, M., …Gold, M.S. (2015).

The Molecular Neurobiology of Twelve Steps Program & Fellowship: Connecting the Dots for Recovery. Journal of Reward Deficiency Syndrome, 1,46-64. http://dx.doi.org/10.17756/jrds.2015-008

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2019). Interrupted Memories: Alcohol-Induced Blackouts. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/interrupted-memories-alcohol-induced-blackouts

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2020). Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder

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