With stress of pandemic liquor sales, alcoholism on the rise

Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 11:15 PM CDT
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A rise in drinking during the pandemic is hard to quantify.

With bars in Texas shut down some people are drinking in excess quietly at home. A combination of being “overly stressed, over reacting and afraid to go out” said addiction expert Melissa Caldwell-Engle.

“The stress of social isolation, the stress of old wounds that open up because of feeling helpless and out of control in today’s world will open up the things of your past where you felt similarly,” Caldwell-Engle said.

She said the stress hormones that kick in begin to “tear up” the digestive system, the gastrointestinal system and reproductive system and complications are only exacerbated by drinking alcohol.

“If we’re catastrophizing in our minds and just having mini panic attacks that is what causes our stress response or fight or flight response,” she said. “Anytime that that’s triggered enough it causes our adrenal glands, our adrenaline all these different stress hormones will kick in.”

According to a survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism more people are drinking right now in the country, and alcohol sales are on the rise as a result of pandemic-related stresses.

Retail sales of types of alcohol across the board were up 5 percent between March and February and up another 10 percent between March and April.

“Our culture doesn’t understand the value of learning how to walk through the stressors in our life and how to manage uncomfortable emotions and so we’re emotionally compromised,” Caldwell-Engle said.

She suggests picking up a new hobby, or reconnecting with family members as more healthy alternatives to reaching for the bottle

Caldwell-Engle works for Healing Springs Ranch in Tioga, a residential treatment center for adults recovering from substance abuse disorders. They treat addictions, depression, anxiety, PTSD among other disorders.

“People come into the facility and stay with us,” Caldwell-Engle said. “It’s almost like mini-mester of school where we work on coping mechanisms and healing where you have a safe and comfortable environment with people that have similar struggles.”

Caldwell-Engle said dealing with addiction recovery along with people who have also struggled with other substance abuse issues is “powerful.”

“It’s one of the most important pieces of treatment is having others that you can relate to to share in your journey,” Caldwell-Engle said.

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