Alcohol in the time of Pandemic

Alcohol in the time of Pandemic

01 Feb 2022

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This informal CPD article on Alcohol in the time of Pandemic was provided by SASSI Direct, an organisation supplying SASSI materials and training professionals in the use of the SASSI since 2004.

Increase in alcohol-related deaths

The increase in alcohol-related deaths during lockdown was predictable and predicted. Locking people up in their houses for prolonged periods of time was bound to increase loneliness, anxiety, boredom and insomnia for many.

It is hardly surprising that people who live on their own, the recently bereaved, the disabled, and the elderly were particularly badly affected. Being allowed to go out for a (lonely) walk was not an option for the housebound, whose social lives would normally consist of hosting visits from able-bodied friends and health or social care professionals. The elderly are the group least likely to be adept at accessing the internet, at participating in “Zoom” talks and calls, or in successfully utilising smart phones for communication. Anxiety was not the sole prerogative of the working population, but worries about redundancy, coupled with anxiety about catching the virus, or about friends and relatives already affected by it, were hardly assuaged by conflicting messages and admissions of ignorance from governments.

Boredom seemed to be more important in some lives than others. It might be tempting to suggest that the more home-oriented, hobbyists, and avid reader types suffered less than their more adventurous outdoor pursuit cousins, who had to make more adjustment to a less stimulating sedentary life, but this is pure speculation. In reality there have been many examples of people taking up extraordinary online activities during this time, many of which would have been geographically inaccessible to them prior to the pandemic.

What has this to do with alcohol? The vast majority of people are introduced to alcohol in a social setting. This may be drinking cider with Rosie under the apple-cart, bunking off school to swig white cider with your mates in a derelict building, or being allowed a glass of wine at Christmas in the protective bosom of the family. A typical drinking career sees an increase in consumption in line with increased time, autonomy and money supply, and decreased supervision, so that peak consumption often coincides with student years, or first employment, or indeed unemployment.

The experience of drinking in a social setting almost inevitably leads to some incidents of excess, and it is by dint of inebriation that the drinker learns that alcohol relieves anxiety, distress, boredom and loneliness – at least in the short-term. It is a short step from this passive realisation, to the strategic use of alcohol for self-medication, and there has always been a discrete cohort of “late onset problem drinkers”; elderly people who have lost their life-time partners, or friendship circles, and who use alcohol for the consolation is seems to afford.

Of course there is another factor at work here too. Pubs and clubs were closed down for weeks, so that access to alcohol was only possible by ordering from supermarkets, or from entrepreneurial retailers who were able to set up pop-up delivery services. Drinking in pubs and clubs tends to be a social activity – people congregate to talk, play games, share jokes with their friends and colleagues. While a degree of merriment is approved of, severe intoxication generally is not, and landlords add an extra layer of constraint. Ordering from supermarkets is entirely anonymous and the alcohol is cheaper. Home alone, there is no shame, no-one to censure, to encourage moderation, to notice whether the excess is becoming habitual.

Rates of domestic violence have also increased in lockdown, and there is a statistical relationship between alcohol consumption and violent behaviour. So maybe it is time to take stock. Early intervention saves lives.

SASSI screening instrument

The SASSI screening instrument is designed to help in the assessment of alcohol and drug issues, and to identify mild, moderate or severe problems. It is used by health, psychology and social services, employers and criminal justice professionals, and is able to identify the beginnings of excess, even if the person themselves is unable to recognise them.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from SASSI Direct, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

SASSI Direct

SASSI Direct

For more information from SASSI Direct, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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