Will the Roaring ‘20s Return after the Pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the U.S. and many other countries around the world to a grinding halt. While the disease itself has been devastating, many of the effects of the pandemic on public health are indirect. The isolation, economic disruption, and stress has taken an immense toll on mental health over the past year and a half. As a result, substance use and overdose rates have spiked.

Now, with nearly 50% of Americans being fully vaccinated, and businesses everywhere reopening their doors, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. But what effect will this have on drug and alcohol misuse rates? Some analysts believe we are in for a repeat of the “roaring ‘20s,” where partygoers will celebrate the end of the lockdowns with copious amounts of alcohol and questionable life choices.

Spiros Malandrakis, head of research – alcoholic drinks for Euromonitor International compared the current situation with American life in the early 1920s. “The parallel I’ve been making is with the Spanish flu that ended in 1920; there were two to three major waves, lives were decimated,” said. “In my mind, it’s not a coincidence sociologically that in the months and years that followed, we had years of cabaret culture in Berlin, one of the most hedonistic eras, the whole ‘Great Gatsby’ era. All around the planet, people woke up, got out of bunkers, and had the best time of their lives for 10 years.”

Malandrakis also stated that he thinks it may still take a year or two of adjustment. “I wouldn’t say 2024, but I also definitely don’t think it will be 2021 – more likely, we will see [economic] recovery at the end of 2022, 2023.”

Other analysts are more skeptical of drawing these connections. For one, the high amount of young people that lost their jobs due to the pandemic and still have yet to find work will likely spend less on alcohol. “There are signs that Gen Z was going to drink a little bit less anyway, so I do think that reality, coupled with economic hard times, could be a double whammy that hits the [bars and restaurants],” says Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association.

The pandemic’s effect on alcohol sales in general has been uneven. Some companies have reported record sales and delivery services that provide alcohol have done very well, in particular. However, some liquor retailers have had their sales decimated by the decline in sales for events such as weddings and parties.

One thing is for sure, people drank and misused drugs at a much higher rate during the pandemic and some of these people have or will likely develop substance use disorder (SUD).

While addiction can make one feel hopeless, recovery is possible. Sometimes this takes getting professional help. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please reach out to an admissions navigator at to learn about treatment options at Desert Hope.

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