The incidence of alcoholism during the pandemic has risen as many have used alcohol to cope with the stress, anxiety, and isolation that COVID-19 has placed on the world.
A study supported by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which compared adult drinking habits from 2019 to the present, showed an increase in alcohol consumption between spring 2019 and spring 2020. More specifically, men and women reported increasing the frequency of their binge drinking – five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within a couple of hours. The Blue Cross Blue Shield COVID-19 National Pulse Survey also noted that overall alcohol consumption has risen 23 percent since the pandemic began.
Jason Andersen, LAC, a licensed addiction counselor with Trinity Health’s Addiction Services, believes that the isolation caused by the pandemic may have magnified the issue of alcoholism. “We started to see more people come in and we noticed a trend: they were not aware their drinking was an issue until they were at home and doing nothing but drinking,” he said.
Additionally, an addicted person who was forced into isolation couldn’t maintain their existing support structure, such as face-to-face meetings, and they may have relapsed, Andersen said. “A number of people with some long periods of sobriety and recovery” may have also relapsed due to pandemic concerns, such as healthcares, being stuck at home, or unemployment.
While the addiction cases seen were “primarily alcohol issues,” they also saw a number of patients seeking help with methamphetamine, opioids, and sedative-related issues during this time.
Typically, the summer is a slow time in the Chemical Dependency Unit at Trinity Hospital – St. Joseph’s. However, this past year, it maintained a consistent flow of patients into the summer and fall months, Andersen said. He noted that while there are usually waiting lists in the wintertime, there was a similar list in the summer and that overall, the unit has “maintained above average numbers, particularly last spring through summer.”
Treatment for alcoholism is available through Trinity Health Addiction Services, which offers a full range of assessment and treatment programs to help people achieve their personal and professional goals related to recovery from chemical dependence or substance abuse. This includes community education, consultations, evaluations and screening, assessments, medically monitored inpatient programming, aftercare programming, and residential programming.
The goal of Trinity Health Addiction Services is to facilitate this change process to provide individuals the tools they need to develop and maintain a lifestyle of recovery. Addiction Services follows a traditional 12-step model, an effective, long-term approach to recovery. Treatment is holistic, integrating practices from a variety of disciplines to treat the whole person – mind, body, and spirit.
The first step in the healing process is an evaluation. A licensed addiction counselor will screen potential patients to determine appropriate program placement. Those in treatment will be assisted in developing a comprehensive treatment plan that meets their individual needs.
Due to COVID-19, Addiction Services did need to make a few changes, including the restriction of outside engagement with patients. Through the screening process, only one patient had tested positive. “We adjusted the program and followed the State Health Department’s guidelines on how to manage a positive patient,” Andersen said. “Within two weeks, we were back to normal again.”
Trinity Health Addiction Services is staffed by qualified and experienced professionals from the fields of Psychiatry, Psychology, Addiction Counseling, and Social Work. They work closely with the medical director to provide multi-disciplinary, individualized care.
Patients (who must be 18 years of age or older) may be referred for treatment by family members, employers, friends, physicians, mental health professionals, and the judicial system. Many patients also refer themselves. Trinity Health Addiction Services is located at Trinity Hospital – St. Joseph’s, 407 3rd St SE, Minot. For more information, or to self-refer, call 701-857-2480 or 1-800-862-0005.