Unhealthy Alcohol Use: The Elephant in the COVID Room

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By Scott Bragg

Alcohol use as a part of our culture appears to not being going anywhere any time soon. However, the grim fact is that there is a real risk for many to develop unhealthy patterns of use. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have led to a surge into binge drinking. Also, it’s likely led to patterns of use warranting treatment with a substance use counselor.

Here are some signs that may indicate a need for help with alcohol use…..

Drinking more, but getting the same result

You may start to have a few drinks here and there during the week. Then, your intake of alcohol increases. Next, you are now drinking several glasses of wine or cans of beer most nights. Though, you now need to continue drinking to replicate the relaxed feeling that you experienced when you started to use alcohol as a stress reliever (or just a way to relax).

Ignoring obligations or responsibilities

It is common to “chill” and “take a load off” now and then. However, if you are less responsive to important obligations, then this is likely a red flag. For example, at times, alcohol users may not be as present with their children or even unable to engage while intoxicated or hungover. At the least, we run the risk of devoting less time to hobbies or activities that serve as healthy outlets when drinking gets out of hand.


Alcohol use can be considered a “problem” when we are experiencing negative effects after stopping use. Physical signs of withdrawal can include shakiness, sweating, or loss of appetite. Nausea and vomiting can also occur. Our mood can be shifted as well and we can become restless or agitated after stopping alcohol use. Abrupt ending of daily alcohol use (when it is heavy) will also lead to increased heart rate, tremors, headaches, and even seizures. It is important to contact a medical provider if any severe withdrawal symptoms occur.

Continuing use even After Depression, etc.

Our mood can be affected by unhealthy alcohol use. After all, it is considered a depressant. Unfortunately, many will then continue a pattern of excessive alcohol use, despite being depressed. Of course, there are physical health issues that occur due to increased alcohol use. Examples include liver issues, heart problems. high blood pressure, along with digestive problems.

Cravings, cravings, and more cravings

Obviously, it is normal to want a beer on a warm day or to enjoy a glass of champagne to celebrate a happy occasion. However, it becomes next level when we are constantly preoccupied with getting drunk. Constant cravings are another red flag when it comes to alcohol use.

If you find that the majority of these signs apply to you (or a loved one) then it is important to find help. It is best to seek treatment as early as possible. This blog serves as a guide for education and not to judge or shame others.

Scott Bragg is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Addictions Counselors in the state of PA.

This purpose of this blog is to provide education and entertainment. It does not serve as a substitute for seeking mental health or substance abuse treatment.

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