Alcohol Consumption Soared During the Pandemic. Here’s What You Need to Know About the Risks.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as the world faced unprecedented challenges, many individuals turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with stress, anxiety, and isolation. Countless news articles highlighted the alarming surge in alcohol consumption.

Today, despite alcohol consumption having mostly returning to pre-pandemic levels, there is a concerning and continuous rise in deaths from alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD).

The Pandemic Drinking Surge

As the pandemic swept across the globe, the stress and uncertainty of lockdowns and social distancing took a heavy toll on people’s mental health. Many individuals sought comfort from the isolation of social distancing and the upheaval in their lives by turning to alcohol. With bars and restaurants closed and social interactions limited, according to some news reports, there was a staggering rise in home delivery alcohol sales as people looked for ways to cope with the pandemic’s challenges.

Effects of Pandemic Drinking on Liver Health

While alcohol consumption has mostly stabilized since the pandemic’s peak, the repercussions of excessive drinking are still being felt, particularly regarding liver health. Alcohol-associated liver diseases, such as fatty liver, hepatitis, and cirrhosis, have been on a distressing upward trajectory. Even as people started curbing their alcohol use post-pandemic, the damage caused by excessive alcohol intake during lockdowns persists. Nationally, liver diseases were one of the top ten leading causes of death in 2022.

What Does the Liver Do?

The liver is one of the largest and most important organs in the human body. It is responsible for more than 300 functions, including digestive, metabolic, and detoxification processes, storage of essential nutrients, and helping the body fight infection. As part of its detoxification function, the liver breaks down alcohol to make it easier for our bodies to excrete it.

How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

The liver can handle about one standard drink an hour for healthy adults. However, the rate at which the liver can process alcohol can vary widely based on several factors, such as a person’s health, age, weight, gender, and frequency of alcohol consumption. The feeling of being drunk is caused by alcohol overflowing temporarily into the bloodstream when the liver becomes too overwhelmed to process it properly.

When a person engages in heavy or binge drinking, it can start to take a toll on the liver. This is because the liver has a specific route for breaking down toxins like alcohol. If the system becomes overloaded, the liver can become damaged, leading to several adverse health consequences, including liver disease.

The increase in alcohol consumption has been linked to a rise in liver disease. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that deaths from alcohol-related liver disease increased by 21% in the United States from 2019 to 2020. This increase was most pronounced among young adults.

There are many reasons why alcohol consumption can lead to liver disease. Alcohol can damage the liver cells, leading to inflammation and scarring. This scarring can eventually lead to liver failure. Additionally, drinking large quantities of alcohol, even for a short period, can build up fat deposits in the liver, leading to conditions such as fatty liver disease.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a startling surge in alcohol consumption as people sought relief from the stress and uncertainties of unprecedented times. Although alcohol consumption has somewhat normalized since then, the effects of pandemic drinking are far from over. Deaths from alcohol-related liver disease are still rising, serving as a sobering reminder of the need to prioritize our physical and mental health.

If you’re concerned about your alcohol use, or that of a loved one, it’s time to reach out for help. Contact us 24/7 at to learn more about how we can help you live a happy and healthy life in recovery.

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