There’s no shortage of excuses for drinking more during the pandemic. Many people were finding themselves struggling with added stress and anxiety, and sought ways to cope. However, relying heavily on alcohol as a way to relax can create additional problems.
With all the stresses associated with life during Covid-19, not to mention the challenges of being stuck inside during lockdowns, it’s not surprising that recent studies have found an increase in alcohol use in Australia since the pandemic started. Many can relate to the struggle to adhere to healthy habits when what you really want to do is pour a drink, particularly when you’re cut off from your usual support systems and coping mechanisms. For Aussies, where 85.5% of the population consumes alcohol, it’s all too easy to go beyond a healthy limit.
This normalisation of drinking, and the wealth of pandemic-related excuses for drinking more than usual, can make it difficult to recognise when an addiction to alcohol is developing. Understanding the signs of alcohol addiction can help you realise when there’s a problem, and if alcohol rehab might be the best next step.
Booze and the Pandemic
Recently published research investigating potential links between the pandemic and alcohol use revealed some troubling results. A study released by Australian National University reported that the frequency of alcohol consumption during the pandemic increased for Australians, especially amongst women. Many cited the additional time burdens imposed by the pandemic, such as having to work from home and manage homeschooling for children. Stress regarding finances, health, and work – in particular job loss or a decrease in hours – also factored into anxiety and increased alcohol use.
Another survey from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation found that 12% of Australians had begun to consume alcohol on a daily basis since the pandemic started, and that those who had not been regular drinkers before the pandemic were now more likely to be habitual consumers. Nearly 20% of those who participated in the survey recognised they were drinking more, and wished they had drunk less during lockdowns. The growing reliance on alcohol as a way to manage new stressors associated with the pandemic is creating a greater potential for unhealthy levels of drinking and alcohol addiction.
Understanding Australia’s Own Drinking Culture
Drinking has long been a deeply embedded part of life in Australia. Glasses are routinely raised at celebrations, family meals, sports events, and parties, to the point that those who abstain from drinking may feel left out or even be questioned over their lack of participation. The ubiquity of alcohol is not without significant public health consequences, with over a third of drug treatment events in Australia involving alcohol, and one in every six Australians drinking at levels that place them at risk of alcohol-related injury.
Given the prevalence of drinking in Australia, identifying problem drinking can be difficult, especially during the pandemic where many are turning to alcohol to unwind and relax in the face of ongoing stress. Being aware of what healthy levels of alcohol consumption are and setting limits can help prevent alcohol abuse and other serious health impacts.
So What Exactly ARE the Guidelines for Alcohol Consumption?
In December 2020, the National Health and Medical Research Council released an updated set of guidelines regarding alcohol consumption. These new guidelines state that healthy men and women should not consume more than ten drinks per week, and not more than four drinks per day. While staying within these parameters doesn’t completely negate the risks that are associated with drinking, it does significantly reduce them.
Do I Have a Drinking Problem?
If you have recognised that your levels of drinking have increased past your usual amounts, or are surpassing what is suggested to maintain your health, it’s time to consider whether you may have an alcohol addiction. There are many different manifestations of addiction, and some people remain high-functioning while being dependent on alcohol. However, this doesn’t change the impacts that long-term alcohol abuse has on your mind and body. Some signs that you may have developed an alcohol addiction include:
- Your friends and family have expressed concern over your drinking habits
- You attempt to hide or downplay your drinking
- You’ve tried to quit or cut back on your drinking, but have been unsuccessful
- You’ve noticed symptoms of withdrawal when you’re not drinking, such as headaches, tremors, insomnia, rapid heart rate, stomach problems, and anxiety
- You are experiencing mood swings and irritability
- You regularly crave alcohol
- You prefer drinking over other activities
- You feel guilty or concerned about your drinking
You may be aware that you use alcohol as a way to try and alleviate stress or anxiety, a common reason for many who struggle with addiction and particularly during the pandemic. Because of alcohol’s specific impacts on the brain however, alcohol can actually worsen feelings of depression and anxiety, creating an unhealthy cycle as people attempt to drown these emotions out with more alcohol.
Long-term heavy use of alcohol can lead to significant changes in the brain, impacting memory and cognition as well as mood, not to mention serious impacts on the body. Lasting and potentially fatal effects of alcohol on the heart, liver, and gastrointestinal systems can dramatically reduce quality of life. Getting alcohol abuse under control as soon as possible is critical in avoiding these negative impacts.
If you think you may have become addicted to alcohol, it is important to reach out to an addiction specialist who can help recommend some treatment options in order to safely detox and regain your health. A professional therapist can also help you determine if there are any co-occurring disorders that may be underlying the addiction, such as anxiety or depression, and treat those as well.
With Holidays Around the Corner, Now’s the Time to Get Help
Studies have shown that alcohol use among Australians triples during the holiday season, making an existing problem that much worse. The presence of alcohol at various holiday events along with the stresses of family gatherings and holiday expectations can push you past your limits in even the best of times. If you are already struggling with your drinking and feeling the mental health impacts of the pandemic, now is the time to reach out for some support.
Focusing on Healthy Habits and Recovery at The Dawn
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab in Thailand offers a unique, effective alcohol addiction programme designed to help you get to the root of your addiction and develop healthy, lifelong coping skills. Our holistic approach addresses mental health and addiction issues, using proven psychotherapeutic methods together with wellness practices to strengthen the mind and body.
Why Choose Alcohol Rehab Outside Australia?
Located on a peaceful riverside in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, The Dawn is far away from your triggers and stressors back home. We are staffed with an internationally-trained, highly-experienced clinical team and are the only addiction treatment centre in Asia with international accreditation, yet cost less than half the price of high-quality rehab in Australia which means you will be able to afford a longer term of treatment. The Dawn’s amenities include a swimming pool, fitness centre, and yoga and meditation studio, where you will be able to relax, recharge, and focus completely on your recovery.
Taking Advantage of our Long-Term Rehab Centre
The Dawn offers a long-term rehab approach in order to treat the mental-health issues that are typically the root cause of most addictions. Our continuum of care, includes detox, addiction and mental health treatment, a step-down programme, and an aftercare plan. This means that instead of spending four weeks in treatment and then heading home, the rehab model is generally eight weeks, and is flexible, all-inclusive and can be extended based on the unique needs of the client.
Call The Dawn today and learn more about how we can help you lead a healthier life.