It is well known that stressors of all kinds can increase the likelihood of relapse for those with an alcohol use disorder and an escalation in drinking for people in general. This has people in the addiction field concerned because as social distancing sets in with the COVID-19 shelter-in-place policies, loneliness and depression might increase raising the use of alcohol, overdoses and relapse.
According to numerous studies the consumption of alcohol, especially hard liquor, suppresses the body’s immune responses to fight off infectious diseases. “Clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia,” noted a 2015 article, Alcohol and The Immune System, published in Alcohol Research: Current Reviews. “Alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex and seemingly paradoxical ways.”
According to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, various studies indicate that alcohol use can deliver a body blow: It messes with humans’ gastrointestinal system, altering the function of healthy gut microbes linked to immunity. Alcohol can also impair key immune cells in the lungs and damage epithelial cells that line the lungs’ surface (where COVID-19 can also attack). ”Often, the alcohol-provoked lung damage goes undetected until a second insult, such as a respiratory infection, leads to more severe lung diseases,” the article noted. “Alcohol consumption does not have to be chronic to have negative health consequences. In fact, research shows that acute binge drinking also affects the immune system.”
While COVID-19 mortality rates are highest among the elderly, younger people are at risk of complications, too: Nearly 40% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US were of ages 20 to 54, and more than half in that range fell between ages 20 and 44, preliminary CDC data show (echoing similar earlier findings in China).
If you or your loved one is in recovery, especially if in early recovery, we know that in these times of turmoil, isolation can bring many of it’s challenges that make life hard. Stay calm and stay vigilant. We encourage recovering individuals to maintain the schedules they had in place before this all started, when possible. If not possible consider replacing activities that require socialization with others that can bring the same result and enjoyment. For instance, gym workouts can be replaced by working out at home.
Let’s stay positive and safe by exercising prudent behaviors that allow us to continue our path to recovery.
Dr. Balta is the Medical Director at FCR for more than 10 years. Dr. Balta is Board Certified in Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, Certified Psychoanalyst. As well, as having Psychiatric Training at The Albert Einstein School of Medicine Psychiatric Residency Program In New York City and Psychoanalytic Training at The William Alanson White Institute in New York City. While working in New York City, gained funding Grants for the treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders from SAMHSA , HRSA and the City of New York.