Pandemic pours, and virtual happy hours lead to a higher alcohol abuse rate seen in women

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The pandemic was easily a stressor for most people. Now, some handled the stress of the pandemic better than others. The shutdown and quarantine that followed led many people to reach for the bottle and pour a drink to pass the time and numb their feelings. While libations were high initially leading people to virtual happy hours and pandemic pours, some people, specifically women, extended happy hour all day, causing a bigger problem.

While alcohol abuse and Liver Disease are generally seen more in men than in women, this past year has caused some shifts in those reports.

“There has been an increase in women using alcohol, particularly younger women, and there’s been articles such as the article at the University of Michigan that has seen an increase of up to 30% in younger women abusing alcohol that subsequently leads to liver disease,” said Dr. Carlos Rodriguez, Chief of Gastroenterology at Kaiser Permanente.

Substance abuse across the board increased during the pandemic, but ads on television and media posts have amplified the use of alcohol as an escape.

“There’s actually been ads on tv that have suggested to drink alcohol as a way to suppress if you would or help with the anxiety and stress,” Rodriguez said.

According to the executive director of Aspire Counseling Services Substance abuse facility, the temptation doesn’t end there.

“There is a lot of memes and things on social media about moms drinking, you know with the whole distant learning, the stress of having your kids home, the just trying to get it through the day, you know, ‘it’s wine-thiry’, or ‘wine is cheaper than therapy’ things like that things that people think are very comical and they say and you know, unfortunately, it is a serious matter,” said Jessica Cason, Executive Director at Aspire Counseling Services, Substance Abuse Facility.

Cason says last March alcohol sales increased by 54% in comparison to 2019 sales and online sales increased by 262%. Heavy drinking among women increased by 41% since the start of COVID-19. The recommended amount of alcohol women should have per day is 5 ounces, for men, it’s double that.

“The reason I believe we haven’t seen an increase of women in treatment, there’s a few reasons. It’s less socially acceptable for women to drink heavily, women are seen as the caretakers, you know getting the kids off to school, making dinner, getting the kids in bed, taking care of their significant other so because of that they are more likely to be secretive about their drinking and because they are more secretive about their drinking, then they are less likely to get help for their drinking because nobody really knows that there’s a problem,” Cason said.

“The problem is that once you’re done with the alcohol, and you come back to normal, the problems are still there, so it doesn’t really solve any problems but people think of it as a way to escape for a while,” Dr. Rodriguez said.

Aspire Counseling services says last March alcohol sales rose by 54%. Since then, they’ve lost 15 clients to overdose and alcohol-related use. They say this is a significantly higher number, especially when you consider that’s more than one person per month. All this to say, help is available and time can be taken off of work with pay to enter treatment.

If you or someone you know needs help with addiction and substance abuse help is available in the community through churches, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous. For more information here are some additional contact resources:

Kern County Behavioral Health and Recovery Center

Aspire Counseling Services, Addiction & Substance Abuse

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