Is Alcohol Essential Really “Essential”? The Dangers of Self-Detox During COVID-19

With most of the nation sheltering in place for two months now, a new study by Nielson reports that alcohol sales are up by 243 percent, compared to March 2019. Addiction experts say this could be for a number of reasons.

People may be drinking more because they’re bored, stuck at home, frightened, and stressed out about unemployment. Sales are up with people stockpiling for the weeks ahead, especially with restaurant alcohol takeout options very limited. For people with an existing Substance-Use Disorder (SUD), they’re worried that they will not have enough alcohol to get them by.

For some, stocking up on alcohol is a way to help pass the time at home. But for others, having access to alcohol is a necessity during isolation. With liquor stores still open and sales skyrocketing, many are asking themselves why alcohol is considered “essential.” There are a number of reasons for this, but a main concern is that a lack of alcohol supply may mean that people in active alcoholism will be forced to detox from alcohol alone, in unsafe conditions, and without the supervision of medical personnel.

When it comes to alcohol, a “cold turkey” approach can be fatal.

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it lowers the functioning of the central nervous system. When one is in withdrawal, the body’s central nervous system reboots and readjusts to the absence of alcohol by increasing heart rate and temperature. More serious side effects include high blood pressure, seizures, hallucinations, drastic changes to breathing patterns, and cardiac issues like heart attacks.

Providers fear that lack of access to alcohol will cause people to flood treatment centers, while those unable to get into treatment will be forced to detox at home. Even before the pandemic, less than 10 percent of Americans, out of 15 million diagnosed, sought treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). That percentage drastically decreases for women, minorities, and the economically disadvantaged.

With little access to medical help for AUD, access to alcohol can mean life or death, and closing liquor stores or “packies” exacerbates the issue. It can lead people to ingest even more harmful substances, such as hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, mouthwash, and even car coolant as a substitute for booze.

During this time, it’s important to social distance from one another, but it’s also important to keep at-risk people as safe as possible. With our overwhelmed medical system, we urge those who need help with addiction to seek help.

Treatment for AUD is still available during the pandemic. If you notice that you’re drinking more, drinking to get through the day, drinking to numb emotional pain and anxiety, you may have an alcohol use disorder. Addiction doesn’t stop for the pandemic, and neither does the New England Recovery Center. Seeking treatment now, more than ever is important.  Call us today.


During the pandemic, the New England Recovery Center is open and accepting new clients. Please call ahead at 1-877-MyRehab and start your recovery journey today.

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