Binge Drinking and COVID-19 Don’t Make the Best Mix

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Peace Valley Recovery is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Our mission is to provide patient-centered care that focuses on healing and recovery from addiction. This blog provides information, news, and uplifting content to help people in their recovery journey.

Authored by Elliott Redwine, | Medically Reviewed by Peace Valley Recovery Editorial Staff,
Last Updated: March 5, 2023

With most states issuing “stay-at-home” orders to their residents, it’s safe to say the majority of Americans are spending most of their time at home right now. The widespread directives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic encourage people to leave their houses only for necessities.

Schools have closed down. All businesses deemed “non-essential” have shut their doors. And chances are you’re a part of the 316 million people staying at home with roommates or family members for the time being.

How are you spending your newfound hours indoors? From the looks of a few swipes down any social media feed, drinking is a popular way for many people to pass their time at home. Countless memes capture the sentiment expressed by plenty: “Drink your way through the COVID-19 quarantine!”

Is drinking truly the best way to handle your time at home? Under normal circumstances, there’s nothing wrong with a drink or two at the end of the day for most people. The circumstances are far from normal at the moment, though.

How has COVID-19 quarantine affected Americans’ alcohol consumption over the past few weeks? Why have people turned to binge drinking during quarantine and how might it impact them in the long run?

COVID-19 Quarantine and Binge Drinking

When states started implementing stay at home orders, people nationwide found themselves with quite a few extra hours on their hands. Many turned to social media to share the various ways they’re spending that spare time at home.

There are home workouts, new recipes to try, and book clubs galore. There are also plenty of people turning to alcohol as a way to pass the time. Virtual happy hours stepped in to fill the gaps since gatherings in restaurants and bars aren’t possible at the moment. Just because you can’t meet up with your friends for a drink doesn’t mean the drinking isn’t happening.

Nielsen research showed a 55 percent spike in alcohol sales at the end of March. Memes about increased alcohol consumption or drinking early in the day are everywhere. People are posting pictures of their “quarantinis,” a joke term for cocktails under quarantine.

There’s a serious undertone beneath the veil of humor to consider, though. Why are people drinking so heavily right now? Is it as funny of a phenomenon as the seemingly endless supply of jokes try to make it out to be?

The Fear Beneath the Binge

Having a drink is a common way for people to take the edge off, to unwind and relax at the end of the day. It’s a way to shake away the stress and settle in for the evening. But that’s after a normal day under normal circumstances. The nation is under circumstances that are far out of anyone’s understanding of normal at the moment.

Millions of Americans lost their jobs over the past month. Schools closing down mean parents across the country need to find a way to occupy their children during the day. Bills are still due but many people are struggling to pay them.

The country is gripped by an overwhelming sense of unknown right now which resulted in widespread fear and panic. There isn’t much available in terms of outside activities to relieve the stress of staying indoors all day. The lack of a definite end leaves people feeling anxious and uneasy.

Now it feels like there’s a constant edge to be taken off. Reaching for a drink provides the quick relief that many people are looking for. Feelings of fear and panic are the catalysts fueling the binge drinking you’re seeing in friends or family, or maybe even yourself.

Is Binge Drinking an Effective Solution?

Having a few drinks may seem like a harmless way to pass the time under quarantine. You aren’t leaving the house, after all, so what’s the harm it could cause? You’re not driving, it doesn’t seem like you’re putting yourself in any real danger. Why shouldn’t you turn to alcohol during your COVID-19 quarantine?

It might feel like drinking with your friends on a video call relieves the anxiety of the unknown. Those stresses seem to slip away while you’re joking over cocktails. It’s easy to forget your fears while you have a buzz going. But what happens when the buzz wears off?

Those anxieties, stressors, and fears are still there. Drinking doesn’t take them away, it only keeps you from thinking about them for a few hours at a time. Binge drinking during the COVID-19 quarantine isn’t an effective way to manage your feelings. It only covers them with a temporary band-aid and you’re still left to deal with them later on.