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SHORT COMMUNICATION
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 295-297

How COVID lifted up the spirits!


Department of Preventive Health and Wellness, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission30-Oct-2021
Date of Decision10-Nov-2021
Date of Acceptance15-Nov-2021
Date of Web Publication31-Dec-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Kanika Chandra
Department of Preventive Health and Wellness, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi - 110 060
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/cmrp.cmrp_108_21

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How to cite this article:
Chandra K. How COVID lifted up the spirits!. Curr Med Res Pract 2021;11:295-7

How to cite this URL:
Chandra K. How COVID lifted up the spirits!. Curr Med Res Pract [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Jan 17];11:295-7. Available from: http://www.cmrpjournal.org/text.asp?2021/11/6/295/334575



The great pandemic has changed our lifestyle, personal choices along with a mammoth rise in morbidity and mortality. Everybody swayed to one or the other adaptive lifestyle to soothe and comfort themselves specially during the stringent lockdowns worldwide. People were indulging in Social media, binge watching Netflix, overeating, and drowning in alcohol (that seemed to be a default companion for majority) in such unprecedented times.

Alcohol has been an age-old enemy of many and no one understands it better than a physician or a family that may have been affected by its consequences. The harmful effects of alcohol are in plenty as it damages the liver in long run, creates other concerning health conditions, weakens the immunity, brings in malnutrition, leads to drunk driving (and subsequently accidents) furthermore leading to economic burden and societal pressure over people and families.[1]

The lockdown world over brought about a change in the pattern of alcohol consumption. Studies in the US reported a surge of 54% by the end of week that was March 21, 2020 and an astounding figure of 262% in online purchase of alcohol while comparing it with the previous year.[2]

In a cross-sectional study across France, where they had reported 10.7% increase in their alcohol consumption while it remained stable for around 64.8%.[3]

The alcohol consumption was found to have been increased in women, parents of young children, people of higher income bracket, and those with mental health issues like depression. This trend was seen in Australia, Belgium, France, the UK, and the US.[1]

On the contrary, in our country, India since the time a strict lockdown was imposed from March 25, 2020, probably the first time post-independence everything was shut. A billion-strong population was forced to sit back and isolate. Such were the times that the liquor shops were closed for the first time in history for such a long period. This step forced people to go into abstinence which pushed a lot of people into depression, people showed alcohol withdrawal symptoms and also made them Google about “how to make alcohol at home” the most searched query during the initial days of lockdown.[4],[5]

So why were people consuming more alcohol:[6]

  1. Uncertainties/unemployment
  2. Dealing with depression, anxieties, isolation
  3. Loss of a near or dear one from COVID-19 (way of coping with loss)
  4. Working from home
  5. Having to work as frontline workers (esp.in hospitals)
  6. Schools being shut (meant dealing with kids home schooling).


The pre COVID scenario was different as there were varying recreational options to release one's tension, relax, and detox. It could simply be going out to a movie theatre, indulge in mall hoping (window shopping), meeting a friend in your favorite restaurant (talking hear-to-heart) or maybe indulging in self-care (going to the Salon). It all came crashing down on us once the lockdowns were strictly put in place. There seemed to be no end to the COVID and there was gloom all around. All one was hearing (and also experiencing) was about the disease, how someone succumbed and how people were falling like nine pins world over (it was all we saw on NEWS channels and social media). The fear related to the pandemic was paralyzing for some, increased mental health issues and increased overall anxieties.

What the further on effects were like:

There were increased incidences of domestic violence in households, both women and children being the targets. Across the European union, there was as much as 60% increase in emergency calls pertaining to domestic abuse and violence.

It is a well-known fact that alcohol leads to various liver ailments, increased incidences of cardio vascular events, increase in diabetes mellitus, alcohol dependence, cancers, and other illnesses.

The alcohol effect in utero is something which is seldom discussed or mentioned, this is, considered to be the mainstay of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder which includes neurodevelopmental deficiencies, learning disabilities, behavioral issues which further on lead to poor concentration, mental health issues, substance abuse and lack of concentration.[7]

Alcohol is known to hit immune pathways in a very paradoxical and complicated manner. This further on weakens the defense of body against various pathogen, impeding the process of recovery from tissue injury, this very reason is also responsible for further organ damage (due to toxins) related to alcohol. Alcohol significantly alters the integrity and structure of Gastro-intestinal tract. It also damages the epithelial cells, neutrophils, and T cells existing in the G I tract.[8]

The families are burdened with health services-related costs and burdened with economic and societal pressures.

Younger age group alcoholics will perform poorly in their academics and will have lower self-esteem and lower life satisfaction.

There will be increased unemployment owing to increased dependency on alcohol and due to chronic illness as an effect of alcoholism.

Poor work performance and bad work productivity when compared to the otherwise healthy workers. A phenomenon is now addressed to as presenteeism (opposite of absenteeism).

A collective detrimental effect on economic growth which will be due to a combination of various facets such as lower life expectancy, increased spending on health sector, poor productivity/participation.

How does alcohol make people drown in it?

People drink because of various reasons as mentioned above and yes alcohol does bring in the “kick” or “high” as some people refer to its effects in general. For different people, it may mean different things like being uninhabited, being the center of attention, forgetting their pain or forgetting their problems. This for some can become addictive. Subsequently one starts drinking more for one or more of these reasons and slowly their threshold starts increasing. There is the physical and psychological effect of alcohol over the brain that in the long run debilitates the person eventually. People who consume alcohol heavily become habituated to the same level of drinking so much that they do not feel normal in case they do not drink while on the other hand, the physical dependence happens when a heavy drinker when abstaining from alcohol faces withdrawal symptoms (comprising of anxiety, tremulousness, at times seizure, hallucinations in worst case scenario).[9]

When does alcohol become a problem? Identifying the warning signs:

  • Increased frequency of alcohol consumption
  • Increased amount or volume of alcohol
  • Continued consumption of alcohol despite expressed concern by family and friends
  • Continued consumption regardless of negative effect on social wellbeing and other aspects
  • Continued consumption in spite of endangering yourself and your family/friends, also acting inappropriately.


People have to be encouraged to move towards other self-improvement steps, coping mechanisms, and group therapies (considering virtual therapies in this day and age).

We need to mitigate the effects of alcoholism and also take a person's focus away from the very attachment to alcohol which in itself can be an arduous step. The following can be certain steps taken in the same direction.[6]

  1. Modifying one's lifestyle, setting a set routine
  2. Getting physically active, hitting the gym or any sport of liking
  3. Adopting a hobby and pursue it
  4. Staying hydrated and getting the energy from a well-balanced diet
  5. Asking for help when needed
  6. Going in for counseling and therapies if required.


Any change happening in a society is dependent on health and the harms of alcohol. It is always a healthy population that runs a successful economy and hence post COVID our aim should be to learn from our follies and this pandemic and lay stress on public health as well as alcoholic's treatment services.[10]

Alcohol consumption as found in some of the countries during August/September 2020 in comparison to the pre-COVID scenario [Figure 1].[11]
Figure 1: Alcohol consumption: August/September 2020 vs pre-covid behavior

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Acknowledgment

I would like to thank and acknowledge Dr. Atul Kakar for his valuable suggestions and Ms. Shubhra Chandra for sharing valuable insights related to the topic.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
OECD. 2021. The Effect of COVID-19 on Alcohol Consumption, and Policy Responses to Prevent Harmful Alcohol Consumption. Available from: https://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/the-effect-of-covid-19-on-alcohol-consumption-and-policy-responses-to-prevent-harmful-alcohol-consumption-53890024/. [Last accessed on 2021 Oct 01].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Rebalancing the 'COVID-19 Effect' on Alcohol Sales. NielsenIQ; 2021. Available from: https://nielseniq.com/global/en/insights/analysis/2020/rebalancing-the-covid-19-effect-on-alcohol-sales. [Last accessed on 2021 Oct 01].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Guignard R, Andler R, Quatremère G, Pasquereau A, du Roscoät E, Arwidson P, et al. Changes in smoking and alcohol consumption during COVID-19-related lockdown: A cross-sectional study in France. Eur J Public Health 2021;31:1076-83.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Ahmed S, Khaium MO, Tazmeem F. COVID-19 lockdown in India triggers a rapid rise in suicides due to the alcohol withdrawal symptoms: Evidence from media reports. SAGE J 2020;66:827-9. Available from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/covid-19-higher-alcohol-consumption-5094355.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Singh S, Sharma P, Balhara YPS. The impact of nationwide alcohol ban during the COVID -19 lockdown on alcohol use-related internet searches and behaviour in India: An infodemiology study. Drug Alcohol Rev 2020;40:196-200.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Study: Who Is Drinking More Alcohol During COVID-19?. Verywell Health; 2021. [Last accessed on 2021 Oct 01].  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Calina D, Hartung T, Mardare I, Mitroi M, Poulas K, Tsatsakis A, et al. COVID-19 pandemic and alcohol consumption: Impacts and interconnections. Toxicol Rep 2021;8:529-35.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/. [Last accessed on 2021 Oct 23].  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
What Makes Alcohol Addictive? | The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab; 2021. Available from: https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/alcohol-abuse/faq/makes-alcohol-addictive/. [Last accessed on 2021 Oct 05].  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Finlay I, Gilmore I. COVID-19 and alcohol – A dangerous cocktail. BMJ 2020;369:m1987.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.


    Figures

  [Figure 1]



 

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