The Health Effects of Pandemic Drinking

The Health Effects of Pandemic Drinking

If you’ve been drinking more than usual lately, here’s how it can affect your body.

Cooped up at home with no workplace to go to and no school for the kids, many people turned to jigsaw puzzles to combat boredom during the pandemic. Unfortunately, they also turned to alcohol (along with marijuana, cigarettes and illegal drugs) to combat the stress of isolation and loneliness, job loss, financial concerns and fear of getting COVID-19.

Cleaning supplies and toilet paper weren’t the only things people stocked up on during the pandemic. Sales at liquor stores – deemed “essential businesses” along with grocery stores and pharmacies – skyrocketed more than 50% in just the first month of lockdown alone.

Alcohol consumption was already rising among adults before the pandemic. An estimated 15 million Americans have a mild, moderate or severe alcohol-use disorder. Alcohol is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., after lack of exercise and poor diet. Nearly 100,000 people die each year from causes directly or indirectly linked to alcohol, such as car accidents.

Experts predict that the pandemic will result in these numbers climbing even higher, especially for women. One recent survey reported that nearly 2 out of 3 women increased their alcohol use during the past 18 months.

But alcohol isn’t good for the body. Even moderate consumption can lead to these serious issues:

  • Alcohol activates the immune system. This results in inflammation, which disrupts the body’s response to bacterial and viral infections.
  • Alcohol use can cause or exacerbate conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease and digestive issues.
  • Cases of alcoholic liver disease, including cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis, were up 30% between March 2020 and March 2021.
  • Too much alcohol can damage the cells that line the surface of the lungs. This leads to an increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.
  • Alcohol use can cause learning and memory problems, including dementia.
  • Alcohol increases risk-taking behaviors, such as unsafe sex, driving while intoxicated and suicidal thoughts.
  • Alcohol use, especially when paired with being isolated in close quarters during a collective social trauma, can lead to violence in the home. Numerous studies around the world have shown increases in the number and severity of domestic violence incidents since the pandemic began.
  • Restrictions during the pandemic compromised access to treatment services for those with substance abuse disorders, who often turn to in-person support groups to help maintain their sobriety. An estimated 40 to 60% of people in recovery are already at risk of relapse, and the stress of a pandemic coupled with few treatment options can make those numbers climb even higher.

If you find you’ve been drinking too much during the pandemic, it’s not too late to start reversing the effects. Studies have shown that after just two weeks of abstinence, the liver starts to repair itself, you’re sleeping better (which leads to increased energy during the day), your skin is more hydrated, your acid reflux has subsided, and you’re saving both calories and money.

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Date Last Reviewed: June 17, 2021

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The Journey Here: Cultural Competency in the Therapy Room

The Journey Here: Cultural Competency in the Therapy Room

What is cultural competency? There has been much energy around the words “cultures”, “diversity”, “justice”, “inclusion”,  and “equality” within recent weeks. How can cultural competency be helpful in energetic times like these? By increasing one’s cultural competency, it allows a person feel more in control over one’s external world. Cultural competency begins with us. During the last year and half, there has been an insurmountable amount of grief, confusion, and unrest and incorporating methods of cultural competency can support us in feeling less of those distressing emotions. In this final article for “The Journey Here”, I will talk about the meaning of cultural competency and how this is an important practice in the therapeutic room.

I hate to break it to you, but there is no one definition for “cultural competency”. Just in this article alone, there are 12 definitions! For the sake of brain space and time, I will focus on cultural competency in the therapeutic sector. According to Dr. Crawford, an associate professor at Boston University, competency can be defined as “the quality of being adequate or well qualified”. He then defines culture as the “totality of socially transmitted behavioral patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other works of human thought.” In the therapeutic world, he would conclude that cultural competency is the state of being well-qualified or adequate to provide services in the context of one’s totality of socially transmitted works of human thought. Cultural competency is a therapist’s ability to communicate respectively and empathetically with those who harness cultural identities and backgrounds that may differ from their own. Without cultural competency, therapists risk dividing or even unintentionally harming their patients. Cultural competency in the therapeutic room is vital in honoring and fostering a safe space in order to facilitate genuine curiosity and empathy for our patients.

At TheraCare Wellness, our psychologists and psychotherapists deeply value our patient’s personal journey in exploring one’s identity. We understand the importance of honoring our patients’ unique experiences and staying curious about their journey. I have appreciated the time and space to share my own cultural experiences, and I’m grateful that you have followed along. Thank you for staying curious throughout this series.

Resources: 

https://www.apaservices.org/practice/good-practice/becoming-culturally-competent.pdf

https://www.apa.org/ed/governance/elc/2012/elc-promoting-quality-crawford.pdf

https://nccc.georgetown.edu/curricula/culturalcompetence.html

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an important time to raise awareness to the prevalence of sexual assault and to cultivate resources for survivors. This year, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, has chosen the theme We Can Build Safe Online Spaces. This is an essential topic and more important than ever with the impact of the internet and social media on our culture.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “Sexual violence is an umbrella term that includes any type of unwanted sexual contact — either in person or online — including sexual assault, harassment, and abuse.” 

What does online sexual violence look like? This might include youth being groomed for exploitation by predators online through social media or apps, individuals receiving unwanted sexual content from others, feeling coerced or forced to send sexual content to others online, and Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), which is also called child pornography. It also impacts adults in many ways such as being sent unwanted sexual content, being asked to send sexual content, ignoring clear boundaries, and coercive communication.

If you are a parent looking to support your child in creating a safe space online, talk to them openly about the content they are viewing. Be sure to speak from a place of curiosity without judgement. Share an interest in what they find interesting. Many kids will be happy to talk about the things that they find interesting, and it will help them to feel seen and understood.  Educate your children about how to stay safe online by talking about what is and is not appropriate content, how to report inappropriate content, and how to speak up to you about seeing something that feels inappropriate. 

How can we facilitate a safe space online for ourselves and our loved ones? For ourselves, we can start by being mindful of the content that we intentionally engage with. We can use social media intentionally by liking, commenting on, and following pages that feel safe and enjoyable. We can block, mute, unfriend, or unfollow people or pages that post harmful or invasive content. We can take time away from social media and the online world by intentionally turning our devices at night and engaging in activities that feel mindful and promote feelings of peace and calm. 

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can create a safe online space for yourself in many ways, such as:

Connect with a support group, online or in person. You can find a directory of support groups for sexual assault survivors by going here: https://www.211oc.org/sexual-abuse-support-groups.html 

RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incent National Network) hosts The National Sexual Assault Hotline, which also has an online chat option. You can contact the hotline at 800-656-HOPE(4673) or utilize the online chat function by going here: https://rainn.org/ 

Engage in a movement practice that support healing. A great resource for survivors is the organization Transcending Sexual Trauma Through Yoga, which trains individuals in providing trauma informed yoga and offers an 8-week class program, which is also being offered virtiually. You can find more information by going here: http://www.zabieyamasaki.com/about/transcending-sexual-trauma-through-yoga 

Listen to podcasts that provide support in healing from sexual assault. You can find more information by going here: https://unapologeticallysurviving.com/rec/podcasts/ 

Listen to podcasts that provide education on sexual assault. You can find more information by going here: https://www.nsvrc.org/podcasts

Connect with online communities that support sexual assault survivors. You can find more information by going here: https://www.womenslaw.org/find-help/national/chats-and-message-boards 

Follow social media pages that support survivors in their healing. One amazing example of social media accounts that promote healing for survivors is @speakoutcuse on Instagram. You can find their page here: https://www.instagram.com/speakoutcuse/ and you can read an amazing written about how this page is empowering BIPOC survivors by going here: https://www.thenewshouse.com/off-campus/can-the-internet-bring-salvation-to-survivors-of-color/ 

Find supportive resources online. Metoo published A Toolkit for Survivors During Covid-19. You can find more information by going here: https://metoomvmt.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/MeToo-COVID-Response_TOOLKIT.pdf