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Commentary: About alcohol and COVID-19

East Bay Coalition reminds residents about limiting consumption during pandmemic

Posted 5/19/20

EAST BAY — The East Bay Regional Coalition reminds residents few substances have been both praised and cursed as much as alcohol. While the dangers of alcoholism, liver damage and drinking and …

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Commentary: About alcohol and COVID-19

East Bay Coalition reminds residents about limiting consumption during pandmemic

Posted

EAST BAY — The East Bay Regional Coalition reminds residents few substances have been both praised and cursed as much as alcohol. While the dangers of alcoholism, liver damage and drinking and driving are well known by many, others have claimed incredible health benefits.

Alcoholic beverages have been used in attempts to fight disease throughout human history. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, recommended wine as “an appropriate article for mankind, both for the healthy body and for the ailing man.”

Early advertisements for Guinness beer included statements such as “It's good for you” and “Guinness for strength”. So, is the end to a global pandemic waiting for us in a convenient pint glass or the bottom of a bottle of wine? Unfortunately, science says otherwise.

Despite medicinal claims of at-home remedies, and the use of alcohol as a disinfectant, alcohol can actually weaken the immune system, resulting in increased vulnerability to COVID-19 and other infections. Alcohol interferes with sleep quality, an important factor for fighting illness. The consumption of alcohol also disrupts the immune response in both upper and lower airways leading to higher risk of pneumonia, the dangerous end stage of COVID-19. Alcohol can interfere with decision making, which can lead to risky behavior that increases your chance of contracting COVID-19 and making the pandemic worse for everyone.

There are also other health concerns related to alcohol, including chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis; various cancers, high blood pressure; psychological disorders, unintentional injuries, violence, harm to a developing fetus (if a woman drinks while pregnant), and alcohol use disorders. It should be noted that there is no safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed. Even a small amount increases health risks.

During the COVID19 epidemic there have been increases in alcohol sales in the United States. It is an important time to minimize the risks of developing alcohol dependence. Risk of alcohol dependence is increased for those who are suffering from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, stress or even loneliness. Alcohol can exacerbate stress and other mental health concerns and should not be viewed as a remedy.

There are some things you can do:

• Start by practicing moderation. If you drank two alcoholic beverages per week before the quarantine, limit yourself to the same amount.
• Know how much alcohol is in a standard drink and measure precisely. A standard drink according to the CDC’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines is:
• 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
• 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
• 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
• 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey).
• Don’t binge drink (four standard drinks for women, and five standard drinks for men consumed in two hours or less). Binge drinking carries significantly higher risk of disease including suppression of the immune system.
• Consider mocktails, which are alcohol-free beverages. Mocktails are delicious and don’t have the same health risks as their alcohol containing peers. Check out some recipes from Town and Country Magazine at https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/drinks/how-to/g785/best-mocktail-recipes/
• Never serve or provide alcohol to minors, even under adult supervision. Alcohol alters brain development in teenagers and significantly increases the risk of a lifetime of alcohol dependency.

Reducing or stopping alcohol consumption is not easy. If you’re concerned that you may not be able to quit drinking alcohol on your own, reach out to your health care professional or contact BHLink at: 401-414-LINK(5465). For more information about the East Bay Regional Coalition call (401) 247-1900 or visit www.riprevention.org.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.