When you look around you find lots of jokes and memes flooding social media about alcohol use throughout this pandemic. Looking at it a bit closer you’ll see that the facts don’t lie: Alcohol sales are skyrocketing. In fact, in the week when shelter in place orders were being issued sales rose as much as 55%.
Why the Increase in Alcohol Use
When the environment changes around a person, the likelihood of them developing issues increases. So, if an environment is more permissive of alcohol use, it’s more likely that people will use it as a coping mechanism.
We can’t deny that our environments have dramatically changed because of the coronavirus. Many of these changes are conducive of excessive alcohol use. These changes include:
- There’s no longer a major stigma surrounding alcohol use at all hours.
- Individuals are isolated in their home so there’s less accountability from friends and co-workers.
- People are feeling more anxious than in the past.
Unfortunately, those that are at the biggest risk for excessive alcohol use are those who are already predisposed to having problems. This is like a mental health issue or any other issue (e.g. cardiovascular disease, cancer) in that these are all genetic issues. However, just because you’ve been born with a genetic disposition to excessive alcohol use doesn’t mean you’re destined to have a problem. What it means is that you’re simply at a higher risk. Thus, when you’re placed in a risk-enhanced environment your likelihood of developing a problem is greatly increased.
Knowing if You’re at an Increased Risk for Excessive Alcohol Use
Genetic testing for predisposition to alcohol doesn’t exist. However, researchers are working hard to find what genetic variations put people at a higher risk of developing issues with drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, truth be told, there are probably thousands of them in existence. This is why we’re rather far off from accurate genetic scores here.
However, there are some other indications that can tell if you’re at a higher risk for developing a problem here including:
- An increase in certain genes increase our tendency to be more anxious or depressed. These people are more likely to use alcohol as a coping mechanism, making it more likely for them to have an issue.
- Our genes influence how are brains are wired when it comes time to process risks and rewards. This is why some of us are more impulsive than others. We find ourselves drawn to an immediate reward and not as likely to pause and consider long-term consequences.
- Genes influence how your body processes alcohol which is why some people need to drink more to get the same effects others have with less alcohol. For instance, it may take a bottle of wine or a 6-pack of beer to make them feel “buzzed” so they’ll easily fall into a patter of excessive alcohol use.
When you have any of these tendencies you should keep an eye on your alcohol use throughout this pandemic because you’re at more of a risk of developing a problem. The pandemic environment can push you over the edge here, especially if you already have a family history of alcohol abuse. The more family members who have the issue, the more likely you’re genetically predisposed to developing a problem yourself.
Genetics don’t have to determine your destiny though. Nevertheless, if you’re prone to any risk-enhancing tendencies you should more closely monitor your alcohol use throughout this pandemic. This is true for anyone of any age. So, if you find yourself with excessive alcohol use make sure you reach out for some help from the Advantage Mental Health Center.
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