Find answers to commonly asked questions about alcohol and COVID-19. We have also included tips on switching drinking habits developed during home isolation to healthier habits.
Are people who drink alcohol at higher risk of COVID-19 infection?
Alcohol compromises the body’s immune system. It can limit your ability to fight off infections, increasing the risk of complications and making it harder to get better if you are sick. Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink is good for your general health and wellbeing.
Heavy alcohol use can increase the risk of pneumonia, other lung infections and acute respiratory distress syndrome which are some of the main complications of COVID-19.
Are there other risks associated with alcohol and COVID-19?
Alcohol consumption may relieve feelings of anxiety at first, but post-drinking you are likely to experience increased feelings of anxiety as you sober up. If alcohol is routinely consumed above Australia’s drinking guidelines, it can also increase your risk of disease or injury, as well as reduce the quality of your sleep (alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but research shows that alcohol disrupts the second half of the sleep cycle leading to a poorer overall quality of sleep). If you are already feeling anxious about coronavirus, then it might be best to limit alcohol consumption to no more than 10 standard drinks spread across the week.
Try other activities that can reduce anxiety and stress, such as connecting with friends and family online, exercising or meditating.
Does drinking alcohol protect me from COVID-19?
No. Consuming alcohol will not destroy the virus and drinking above the recommended levels of more than four standard drinks on any one day and more than 10 standard drinks per week is likely to increase your health risks if you become infected with the virus.
Should I be drinking virtually with friends?
Social media platforms and apps are helping us stay connected to our friends and family during COVID-19, but virtual gatherings can multiply your drinking occasions. Rather than bringing alcohol into the mix, challenge your online group to games or quizzes, share your baking triumphs or fails, have a mocktail competition, or start a book or film club online.
What if I’m drinking more whilst isolating at home?
Even though life has changed due to the outbreak of COVID-19, it is still important to try and limit the amount of alcohol you drink at home. Not drinking alcohol at all or making sure you have no more than four standard drinks on any one day and no more than 10 in a week is a great way to maintain good health and wellbeing.
Should I refrain from drinking in front of my children where possible?
Parents have the greatest impact on shaping their children’s attitude to alcohol and future drinking behaviour. Research has found young people who are exposed to their parents’ drinking are at a higher risk of starting to drink alcohol earlier. Being a good role model is a positive action parents and other carers can take.
How can I begin cutting down on my drinking?
The good news is there are proven ways of changing a drinking habit to get back on track. For example, identifying what triggers your drinking, finding alternative activities that can disrupt your habit, keeping a tally of exactly how much you are drinking and planning for drink-free days in your week. Try these techniques.
If you are experiencing negative consequences and need extra help, there are support services out there for you. For free and confidential information on alcohol and other drugs or support services near you, call the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s DrugInfo line on 1300 85 85 84 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How long will it take me to change drinking habits that I have developed during home isolation?
This will vary for each person. For most Australians, lockdown has lasted around 70 days and research shows it can take a person an average of 66 days to form a new habit. So, it could take around the same time to change a new drinking pattern. It might sound like a long time but if you keep at it, your new behaviours will turn into new habits. Persistence works.
I am quarantined at home and am drinking more than usual. Where can I get virtual help?
There’s lots of support out there to help you turn around unhealthy drinking habits. For free and confidential information on alcohol and other drugs or support services available, call the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s DrugInfo line on 1300 85 85 84 or email email@example.com. Online communities like Daybreak, Counselling Online and SMART Recovery offer peer support. Hello Sunday Morning’s blogs provide great ideas to help you change your relationship with alcohol.
What treatment options are available for someone who is concerned about their alcohol consumption?
As a start, speak to your GP who can recommend the best available support or treatment option for you. Your GP can ask you a series of questions to help identify whether you are drinking at risky levels. Referral treatments available include counselling or various forms of therapy. Or alternatively, for advice, try these services that don’t need referrals: