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Spike in Alcohol Abuse & Liver Disease Attributed to Pandemic

Emergency rooms and hospitals alike have a lot on their hands these days, but COVID-19 isn’t the only cause of patient surges. Medical professionals across the nation are reporting a rise in liver disease thanks to the increase in alcohol abuse over the last year.

According to ABC7, admissions for alcoholic hepatitis and liver failure at USC’s Keck Hospital are up 30% in 2020 compared to the year before. At other centers like Mount Sinai Health System in New York City and Northwestern University, rates of admissions were up 50%.

Many studies have documented the rise in alcohol sales and abuse in the United States since the global pandemic began spreading and impacting our lives. In March 2020 alone, Nielsen reported a 54% increase in national alcohol sales, and a study found that people increased their alcohol consumption by 30% from pre-pandemic months.

There are several reasons why more people are turning to alcohol during the pandemic, including:

  • Economic stress: COVID-19 impacted every industry in the United States, and countless companies were forced to adjust by sending workers home or laying them off to avoid losing any more money. Millions of Americans became unemployed last year and despite this fact, landlords are still continuing to charge rent, which many can no longer afford. Individuals may be turning to alcohol to cope with the stress they feel about their financial situation and the threat of being evicted.
  • Social isolation: Social distancing guidelines strongly discourage group gatherings and ask that individuals stay home as much as possible to avoid catching or spreading the coronavirus. Not being able to visit with your loved ones and sources of support can make you feel unloved, lonely, and depressed—all negative feelings that can lead to alcohol abuse.
  • Boredom: One of the tips people in recovery from addiction are always given is to busy themselves as much as possible to avoid having too much free time. Free time allows our minds to wander and fixate on things like alcohol consumption. Because of all the time we’re spending at home, it’s likely people are drinking just to have something to do.
  • Mental health issues: People with existing mental disorders may especially be struggling during this time if their routines have become interrupted. Thanks to the closure of many rehab centers and therapy sessions moving online, mental health services are less accessible in a time where our country needs them the most.

When it comes to liver disease, it’s important to know that damage often doesn’t show up after just a few weeks or months after alcohol abuse begins. It usually takes years of drinking and addiction to cause serious damage, which is why some medical professionals are saying relapse could be behind many liver disease reports. One liver specialist mentioned that many of her more recent patients had been in recovery for years before they relapsed during the pandemic.

Signs of Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) typically doesn’t make itself known until your liver has already been severely damaged, which is why it’s important that you schedule an appointment with your physician as soon as possible if you’ve relapsed or have been drinking regularly. The sooner you can get diagnosed and treated, the higher the chance you have of preventing advanced liver damage.

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you might have alcohol-related liver disease and should seek medical attention immediately:

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting blood
  • Passing blood in your stools
  • Feeling sick
  • Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
  • Confusion or drowsiness
  • Swelling in ankles or stomach

Though the liver is known to regenerate and thus be extremely resilient, prolonged alcohol abuse can reduce this ability to produce new cells, which is how permanent damage occurs. If your drinking has gone out of control or you’ve recently relapsed, Decision Point Center to help.

Combating Arizona’s Drug Epidemic Through Change

Call Decision Point Center at (844) 292-5010, or contact us online to learn more about our range of custom-tailored alcohol rehab programs in Arizona. From inpatient programs to relapse prevention, we have something for everyone.

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