There are endless memes and posts about drinking during the Covid pandemic. Moms “surviving” their day with a bottle of wine in hand before 10 a.m. Wine glasses that say “Because of Virtual Learning.” Other posts that show a “Quarantini.” It’s all fun and games until you find out a loved one is trapped in the vortex of alcohol consumption.
There has been an increase in online wine sales during the pandemic and overall alcohol sales have increased during the pandemic months. While jokes about drinking during the pandemic can seem funny on the surface, many people are struggling with their drinking habits. Having even a couple drinks a day can have a major impact on your brain function.
As much as the wine industry would like us to believe that drinking wine is healthy and there have even been articles like “Could Wine Treat Coronavirus?” suggesting the resveratrol in the wine is protective against viruses… I would argue we are better off to eat some grapes or take a supplement with anti-inflammatory properties with higher amounts of resveratrol in them vs. drinking a glass of wine that also has damaging alcohol, sulfates, and other unhealthy side effects. I think many of us can admit to indulging in something less than healthy but holding on to the idea that a sliver of that something may offer health benefits, so we give yourself permission to continue with it. Let’s be honest, we all like to be a little “bad” but thankfully our bodies are resilient. However, over a period of time… say the six-month-Covid-19 period, we can cause a lot of damage with long-term effects. And if you develop an alcohol addiction, it can become a life-long problem mentally and physically.
From our friends at Amen Clinics, “The message is clear: When crisis strikes, drinking is not only socially acceptable but encouraged. A study early on in the pandemic claims 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to drink alcohol during work hours while in lockdown. The numbers vary by states: 38% of California, New York, and Pennsylvania workers are drinking during work; about 50% in Idaho, Kansas, Iowa, and Virginia; and Hawaii ‘wins’ at a reported 67%. The study didn’t even look at non-work hour consumption!”
At the end of the day, drinking 1-7 drinks per week can shrink your brain, according to a 2008 study at Johns Hopkins which appeared in Archives of Neurology. We also know that the brain consumes about 20% of the oxygen we intake and when we drink we decrease blood flow to the brain. Our brain is a high consumer of energy, oxygen, and nutrients. What we consume goes to the brain in high amounts. In an article by Amen Clinics, “Drinking 1-2 glasses of wine a day, which is considered ‘moderate’ drinking, leads to atrophy in the hippocampus, according to a 30-year study of 550 women and men that was published in BMJ. The hippocampus is a critical brain region for learning and memory.” As alcohol decreases the number of brain cells and decreases blood flow to the brain, over time, this impact has been linked with dementia and other memory problems. Even when we know all of this there is still the reality that drinking is addictive and socially acceptable. So, what can we do to help a loved one struggling with consuming too much alcohol?
- Ask questions! Ask how you can support them and come from a place of love and respect, not judgment.. Let them know you are here to support them without judging them. This is not something that is solved overnight. Ask what their values are and what they truly want in life. Is the alcohol adding value to their life? Be curious!
- Don’t argue! Arguing will not get you or the person you are supporting anywhere.
- Support their environment while supporting them. Do things that do not involve triggers to drinking. Encourage them to share with those around them that they are not drinking and ask for support.
- Get additional professional support. Explore consulting, support groups, life-coaching, alternative health therapies, and other modalities that encourage healthy brain, body, and emotional support.
Also, if you are the one working with someone struggling with alcohol consumption be sure you are also supporting your own emotional and physical needs.
Checkout this SPECT from the Amen Clinics that shows 3D pattern imaging of how substances like heavy alcohol consumption impacts the brain over time.