Spike in Alcoholic Liver Disease Attributed to the Pandemic
To say the COVID-19 pandemic has been a public health crisis borders on being an understatement. Over 569,000 Americans have perished from complications caused by the novel coronavirus that reached the USA in January 2020. But as devastating as the disease itself has been, the pandemic has had many deleterious indirect effects on public health as well. Collective mental health has worsened as a result of stress and isolation, and with this has come an increase in substance misuse and overdoses.
Several surveys have found that Americans are drinking more during the pandemic. These numbers appear to coincide with a spike in alcoholic liver disease among women. Dr. Jessica Mellinger, a liver specialist at the University of Michigan, believes pandemic anxiety and limited access to health resources could be to blame.
“What we’ve seen is a lot more isolation, people’s daily routines have been quite disrupted,” she told NBC Miami. “Maybe people who recognize that they had an alcohol problem now are struggling to get help, struggling to find resources.”
Mellinger and others are also suspicious that “mommy juice’ type advertisements,” in which binge drinking to escape the stress of parenthood is normalized and celebrated, may be leading women to drink more.
The “mommy-juice” trope, however, is nothing new; the alcohol industry has been directly marketing their products to women (specifically mothers) for years. “The problem is we’re in this culture where we are told that wine and alcohol is something that we deserve,” Stefanie Wilder Taylor, former “wine-mom” celebrity and author of Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay, told Huffington Post. “I sure bought into that myself.”
Alcohol products are often marketed to mothers as a form of “self-care,” even though it has serious negative effects on physical and mental health.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has only increased stress levels, especially among parents of young children. Parents that have found online learning to be a source of stress in their lives are turning to the bottle more than others, consuming an additional 7 drinks per month on average.
How Much Drinking is too Much?
Everyone is different when it comes to how alcohol affects them and their health. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines heavy drinking as 8 drinks or more per week for women and 15 drinks or more per week for men. Drinking this much for a prolonged period of time can cause:
- High blood pressure and irregular heartbeat, leading to heart disease and stroke.
- Liver disease, such as fatty liver disease, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and more.
- Cancer of the mouth, throat, colon, liver, breast, and more.
There are also many immediate health effects and injuries caused by binge drinking, which is drinking 5 or more beverages on one occasion for men and 4 or more drinks for women.
If you believe you or a loved has a drinking problem, professional help may offer the solution you need to withdraw safely and enter long-term recovery. Please reach out to an admissions navigator at .