Facts about Alcohol and The COVID-19 Pandemic
Can alcohol protect you from SARS-CoV-2? Well, there are claims that it does. But the fact is, it isn’t true.
The World Health Organization has agreed that alcohol has no protective effect on COVID-19. It is important to note that consuming alcohol might increase your risk of developing complications from COVID-19.
In this article, we discuss facts about alcohol and the COVID-19 pandemic. We will also look at the effects of alcohol intake on mental health, as well as how you can treat anxiety and depression.
Examining the myths and the facts
Several myths are surrounding the intake of alcohol and COVID-19.
We will outline these in the sections that follow.
Myth 1: Alcohol has a toxic effect on SARS-CoV-2
Fact: Consuming alcohol does not destroy SARS-CoV-2.
Here’s the thing – alcohol in high concentrations (60 – 90% perhaps) can kill some viruses and bacteria. But the fact is, it only kills viruses on the skin or other external surfaces.
Alcohol intake does not kill SARS-CoV-2, and neither does it stop you from developing COVID-19.
Myth 2: Alcohol has a stimulating effect on the immune system
Fact: Alcohol suppresses the immune system
The European World Health Organization has stated that alcohol has a suppressing effect on the immune system. It can prevent your immune system from fighting the infection.
The fact, alcohol is detrimental to your immune system.
Myth 3: An alcohol breath is lethal on the virus in the air
Fact: Alcohol is not a disinfectant, neither does it provide any protection
An alcohol breath does not protect you from the airborne virus. Note that drinking alcohol will still not reduce your risk of infection.
The effect of alcohol on your immune system
Alcohol is not healthy for your immune system.
A study was done in 2015 and published in the Journal of Alcohol Research. Alcohol is detrimental to your immune cells. This weakens your immune system and reduces its fighting chance against infections. It also triggers inflammation, further compromising your immunity.
One of the complications of COVID-19 is acute respiratory distress syndrome. Acute respiratory distress syndrome is characterized by the filling of the air sacs with fluids. This decreases the oxygen supply to the body. And needless to say, the consequences can be fatal.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that 41.8% of 201 COVID-19 patients developed ARDS.
What effect does alcohol have on your mental health?
Your brain only functions optimally when there’s a balance of neurotransmitters. Alcohol has the potential to disrupt this balance.
Alcoholism can worsen underlying mental conditions. For instance, a 2015 review showed that alcohol can trigger depression.
How can you cope with alcohol intake during COVID-19?
There are many effective ways of fighting depression and anxiety.
Psychotherapy may help. Psychotherapy involves using various methods to refine a person’s thinking & behavior.
There are many medications available to treat anxiety and depression. Antidepressants are a good example. Their effects manifest within 2 – 4 weeks of administration.
Doctors may use beta-blockers to treat anxiety. Beta-blockers regulate the way you respond to anxiety. For instance, they can control heart rate during anxious situations.
You can also adopt positive lifestyles. For instance, adopting stress reduction techniques and exercising regularly can help. Also, you must avoid staying alone. Isolation isn’t helpful at this time.
Alcohol prevents medications from working properly
Alcohol interferes with some medications. It can cause serious symptoms like:
- Lightheadedness and dizziness
- Loss of coordination
You may experience these symptoms when you take alcohol alongside OTC pain relievers, as well as some allergy and cold medications.
Ensure that you read the labels of all medications. Anyone might information regarding the effect of alcohol on that particular medication.
It is important to note that alcohol reduces the potency of some medications, like antibiotics for instance.
Alcohol can also cause organ problems and internal bleeding. Mixing alcohol with acetaminophen or ibuprofen can damage the liver or cause problems to the stomach.
COVID-19 virtual support meetings
People with alcohol or substance abuse disorders are very vulnerable to the effects of the Coronavirus on the respiratory system. Like other progressive and chronic conditions, addiction doesn’t always align with life events, such as the coronavirus. And so, during these times of uncertainty, you can be certain that American Addiction Centers (AAC) cares about your recovery journey, which is why they host free online virtual 12 – step AA/NA support meetings throughout every week. You can get more information HERE.
Locating State-funded drug rehab centers
At a time when drug overdose remains at an all-time high, the American Addiction Center offers educational resources for those who may be struggling with substance abuse. One of these is a GUIDE ON HOW TO FIND STATE-FUNDED REHAB CENTERS
Alcohol and COVID-19 aren’t friends so to say. It does not protect you from this ailment. It doesn’t reduce the risk of infection. It increases your risk of developing complications of COVID-19.
We have mentioned that alcohol can compromise immune function, thus increasing your risk of getting infected.
It also worsens pre-existing mental conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, alcohol can reduce the potency of certain medications, like acetaminophen, or even cause worse symptoms.
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.