According to press reports, alcohol sales increased significantly during the quarantine period in Russia. In the last week of March alone, people bought about 30% more vodka than in the same period a year ago1… In many other countries, the situation is about the same – for example, the American psychotherapist Kimberly Kay writes about an increase in alcohol sales by 55%, which, in her opinion, speaks volumes about how people cope with the situation.
Changing lifestyles due to circumstances has lifted many of the prohibitions that were previously constraining factors. It seems that the unspoken rules that stopped drinking on weekdays, active drinking by women and “taking on the chest” alone no longer apply. Anxiety, loneliness, and grief can also provoke alcohol consumption as a useless, but alas, traditional means of comfort.
In old age, the risks increase: the body at this time is less adapted to the processing of alcoholic toxins
As Kay reminds, referring to scientific research data, alcohol has carcinogenic properties and can indirectly provoke the development of cancer of the breast, mouth, esophagus, liver, larynx, colon and rectum. Also, the occurrence of coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, cerebrovascular accident and some types of depressive disorders, as well as other unpleasant health problems, are associated with its use.
Women are especially vulnerable: they can drink more alcohol than men of the same weight category. And during menopause and in old age, the risks increase: the body at this time is even less adapted to the processing of alcoholic toxins.
“A hundred grams won’t hurt?”
Yes, some studies have shown that small amounts of alcohol may be protective. The father of toxicology Paracelsus said: “Everything is poison, and nothing is devoid of poisonousness; just one dose makes the poison invisible. ” In other words, there is always a line beyond which what is useful can become dangerous or toxic.
For example, we all need vitamin A and selenium, but if we consume too much vitamin A, it can build up in fat cells, cause hair loss, and in the worst case, kill. Too much selenium can also lead to hair loss and other problems – including kidney failure, which, again, can be fatal. This is definitely not something to play with, and most people risk their lives by taking nutritional and vitamin supplements without consulting a specialist.
The problem with alcohol is that the first effect is actually a dopamine boost, mood improvement, and anxiety relief. This is socially acceptable, and it often brings people together, builds contact, playfulness, and enthusiasm. People can drink a little to stimulate feelings of intimacy. Nevertheless, the insidiousness of alcohol is that it is addictive (you have to take more and more to achieve a certain effect) and a kind of withdrawal.
Addiction is something that can happen to anyone in any country and demographic
A number of scientific studies are devoted to determining the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption, which will take advantage of its “protective” properties. Kimberly Kay cites the following data: men should not drink more than two alcohol units (“drinks”, from the English “drink”) per day and no more than 14 per week, while women need to limit themselves to one alcohol unit per day, no more 7 a week. This measurement system was invented in the USA and became widespread in the world, adjusted for local “standards”2… In the United States and in this article, one alcoholic unit equals 360 ml of beer, 150 ml of wine, or 45 ml of vodka or whiskey.
The expert recommends that you compare your habits with these norms: “If you are struggling to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink in order to stay within these limits, or realize that you drink regularly, you may have an alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder. “. In these cases, abstinence is the best option. There are support sites and even online groups like Alcoholics Anonymous on the Internet, and many psychotherapists provide remote counseling on addiction issues.
Addiction is something that can happen to anyone in any country and demographic, regardless of education, income or gender, Kay writes. Addictions can arise as subconscious ways of managing anxiety. Narcotic, food, sexual, play and shopaholism, they often become associated problems with alcohol addiction.
How to deal with a situation without alcohol?
By recalling Paracelsus’ words that toxicity is a matter of dosage, one can define the unprecedented stress levels associated with pandemic, isolation and loss of work as a very toxic situation.
All these factors have a destructive effect on the immune system and make it even more vulnerable to bad habits and addictions. Therefore, it is now especially important to strengthen your body using healthy adaptation skills, useful activities and sanity. “Before you reach for another drink or let another unhealthy habit kick in, read and practice at least some of these tips,” suggests Kimberly Kay.
So what can you do?
1. Expand perspectives. It is important to acknowledge what we have and replace negative thoughts with creative solutions to the problems that arise.
2. Don’t avoid your emotions. It is worth trying to understand how we feel and what those around us. Our emotions can speak of something important and suggest actions (or inaction) necessary at this moment. By ignoring them, we might miss something important.
3. Set realistic goals. There is nothing worse than setting yourself up for failure. If we cherish a big dream that, as it seems, is not yet possible to achieve, it is worth trying to divide the path to it into small steps and tasks.
4. Learn from mistakes. There is no need to torment yourself with a sense of guilt – it is important to see in error an opportunity for reflection and growth.
Being active helps release the excess adrenaline produced by stress
5. Letting go of the need and desire to control others. You need to accept people as they are. No matter, writes Kay, how close we are to them, we still cannot know all the details of their personal history, as well as feelings and thoughts.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If someone didn’t respond to it, you should try to find another resource. No one person can be everything to another, each has its own limits. Fortunately, we usually have different people around us to turn to.
7. Strengthen self-esteem. It is now more important than ever to put aside any negative thoughts about yourself and learn to love and respect yourself.
8. Move. Physical activity is necessary – this can be home workouts, yoga, squats, walking and running (for those who quarantine in their own home with a plot), gardening, construction and repairs. Being active helps release the excess adrenaline generated by stress, and being outdoors can be especially helpful for calming and grounding.
The danger of self-isolation in the company of a bottle is that the line beyond which evening pleasure turns into a problem and dependence is very thin, and it is not easy to distinguish it from within the situation. Understanding the mechanisms of work of the psyche can help to stop and realize what is happening to us, what we are doing and where it will lead.
It is very important to understand exactly what we are trying to cope with through alcohol and what healthier ways we can help ourselves.
About the author: Kimberly Kay is a psychotherapist, counselor and mediator.
1 “Russians began to buy alcohol en masse”, Lenta.ru, March 29, 2020 “Russian alcohol suppliers reported sales growth”, “Vedomosti”, March 28, 2020 “Russians self-isolate with alcohol”, “Vedomosti”, April 8, 2020 g.
2 “Degrees will be transferred to drinks,” Izvestia, December 11, 2008