Other substances might also be in supply, such as painkillers or other over-the-counter medications.
When we’re in confined situations and dealing with stressors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, an inability to go to work, see friends, experiencing feelings of isolation, financial stress, anxiety caused by outside events or even conflict at home, the use of alcohol and other substances can often be seen as a way to cope. However, the opposite is true. Over time, the effects of alcohol use to deal with stress have less of a calming effect, and the expected benefit shifts to depression and anxiety induced by alcohol and substance use.
The World Health Organization reiterates that alcohol and substance abuse undermines your ability to cope with infectious diseases, including COVID-19. They also say that excessive alcohol consumption will not protect you against COVID-19. It won’t kill the virus, either; the opposite is true as it can weaken the immune system.
Alcohol and drug use affects your mental state and decision-making, which could make you vulnerable to risks like unintentional injuries such as falls or car accidents, and even domestic violence, and is further aggravated during lockdown. It also heightens the symptoms of depression, anxiety, fear, and panic that are already prevalent as we deal with a global pandemic and the associated lockdown.
There are other issues that can be complicated with excessive use of alcohol:
• Reduces the body’s immunity
• Increases risk-taking behaviours
• Increases impairment in cognitive functions
• Enhances propensity to cause violence against others, or become a victim of violence
• Unintentional injuries can become prevalent (such as falls and car accidents, etc.)
Managing the use of alcohol during lockdown
• Create a self-care routine and stick to it
• Exercise as often as possible. It’s one of the best things you can do to remain mentally and physically healthy
• Get outside as many times a day as possible
• Find stimulating activities to do, such as reading books or doing crafts
• Focus on your work and make a difference
• Substitute alcohol for non-alcoholic drinks
• Limit the amount of alcohol you have in the house so that you may not be tempted
• Take one day at a time and keep a journal on what you are grateful for
• When you feel down, remember that the situation is not permanent and rather focus on what you can do to enhance your day
• Reach out to family and friends when you feel unstable or depressed
Myths about alcoholism and substance abuse
Myth 1: I’m not addicted, I can stop drinking anytime I want
Fact: Maybe you can, but it’s also likely that you can’t, and don’t realise this. The truth is you don’t want to stop because alcohol is the only readily available substance that you might feel you can use to cope with the situation. Telling yourself you can quit makes you feel in control despite all evidence to the contrary.
Myth 1: My drinking is my problem, so no one has the right to tell me to stop
Fact: It’s true, the decision to drink or quit drinking is up to you, but you are deceiving yourself if you think that your drinking is not damaging to anyone else, especially the people closest to you. Your problem is their problem.
Myth 3: I don’t drink every day, so I’m not an alcoholic
Fact: Alcoholism is not defined by what you drink, when you drink it or even how much you drink. It is defined by the effects of your drinking.
Myth 4: I’m not an alcoholic because I have a job
Fact: Many alcoholics are able to hold down a job and can even function successfully. However, during lockdown and working from home, you may find yourself slipping into negative work patterns and routines.
Myth 5: Drinking is not a real addiction like drug abuse
Fact: Alcohol is a drug, and alcoholism is every bit as damaging as drug addiction. Alcohol addiction can cause changes in the body and brain and long-term alcohol abuse can have devastating effects on your health, career and relationships.
Consuming alcohol is not bad if it’s done in moderation. Alcohol should never be consumed if you suspect you are, or if you know you are pregnant.
We are working together to curb the impact and spread of infection and are here to support you. Please contact the Fedhealth Crisis Support Centre line on 0860 111 646 if you need additional information or have any concerns or questions.
For more information, visit the government official COVID-19 website: www.sacoronavirus.co.za