• Addiction & recovery

Virtual Happy Hours: Drinking a Little More Alcohol During the COVID-19 Outbreak?

Nzinga Harrison

May 6, 2020


With millions of people practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, many are seeking alternative ways to connect. One growing method of communication during the coronavirus outbreak is online gatherings. At this time when people are craving social interaction and distraction from the stress of the COVID-19 outbreak, virtual meet-ups are an important lifeline to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Groups of friends are meeting online to chat, replacing their usual weekend hangouts. Instead of organizing in-person team building events, companies are hosting online events where colleagues can socialize. Even grandparents and less technology-savvy family members are firing up the webcam or downloading apps like Zoom, Facetime, and Skype to see loved ones on the screen.

At the same time, liquor stores have been deemed essential businesses in most of the country, and are continuing to experience increased sales since the stay-at-home orders have been put in place. As app downloads and alcohol sales rise, this combination of factors indicates that people are even using these online gatherings for virtual happy hours.

While it’s hard to determine if this will lead to more people excessively drinking, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of unhealthy habits, and the health and safety risks associated with excessive alcohol use, including:

  • Drinking more or for longer than you intended

  • Spending most of your time drinking

  • Using alcohol as your only “coping mechanism”

  • Noticing that drinking interferes with your responsibilities like work and family

  • Hiding alcohol consumption from other people in the house

  • Continuing to drink even if you feel depressed, anxious, or physically ill afterward

  • Spending more money on alcohol than you would normally

  • Participating in high-risk behavior when drinking, including gambling, excessive spending, unprotected sexual intercourse, violence, or other activities that may result in injury

Know the Healthy Guidelines for Alcohol Consumption

  • Be aware of the alcohol consumption guidelines for healthy adults: one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men

  • Avoid binge drinking: four or more drinks during a single occasion for women and five or more drinks for men.

  • Keep track of consumption so you can monitor your alcohol usage over time and notice a change or pattern developing.

Manage Drinking During Social Distancing

  • If you’re concerned you might be drinking too much, you can still participate in virtual gatherings but without alcohol. Instead, drink tea, water, or juice. If you feel peer pressured to drink, remember that your friends can’t tell exactly what you’re drinking over a video call.

  • Try to avoid and manage triggers, like music or games, that you associate with drinking.

  • Don’t feel obligated to attend every Zoom or Skype event. Take a night off to workout, cook, meditate, or focus on other hobbies.

“Getting help for the underlying problems, like stress, depression, and anxiety that may be causing you to drink more often is very important,” says Dr. Nzinga Harrison, a Psychiatrist, Addiction Expert and Chief Medical Officer for Eleanor Health.  “When left unaddressed, stress, depression and anxiety can make it extremely difficult to reduce or stop drinking, even for a person who is extremely motivated to do so.”

Staying at home to reduce the spread of the virus comes with the added benefit of more flexible scheduling so you can arrange to speak with a specialist from the comfort and privacy of your home. You may even be able to join a virtual support group to meet with other people online who are in the same position as you or even medical professionals are available for video conferencing these days through telehealth services!

If you need help with your substance use disorder, we are here to help you build your confidence and momentum towards the future you want. We provide treatment services for adults with alcohol, opioid, and other substance use disorders. We are currently located in Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, and Washington.

Eleanor Health

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Our mission at Eleanor Health is to help people affected by addiction live amazing lives. We deliver whole-person, comprehensive care and are passionate about transforming the quality, delivery, and accessibility of addiction & mental health treatment. Our actions are rooted in respect for each member's values, culture, and life experiences, and our commitment to their wellbeing is unwavering and without judgement.

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