REPORT: 1 In 5 Americans Say They Drank Heavily During Pandemic

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Harry Wilmerding Contributor
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A new study found that one in five Americans drank “heavily” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The online survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of biopharmaceutical company Alkermes found that 17% of respondents reported “heavy drinking” in the last 30 days. The survey also showed that at least 13% of respondents underwent treatment for their drinking patterns.

“Published data have demonstrated that alcohol use in the U.S. has increased during the pandemic. This particular survey provides insight into drinking patterns, as well as respondents’ help-seeking motivations and behaviors,” Dr. Craig Hopkinson, chief medical officer and executive vice president of research and development at Alkermes, said in a statement. (RELATED: REPORT: Liquor Stores, Bars And Restaurants Are Facing Alcohol Shortages)

The online survey took place from March 30, 2021, to April 7, 2020, among 6,006 U.S. adults over the age of 21. The responses of 1,003 participants matched the survey’s standard for “heavy drinking” during the pandemic.

“Heavy drinking” was defined as having two heavy drinking days in a week at least twice during the 30 day period before responding, according to the study. A “heavy drinking day” consists of five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women.

“The results of this survey suggest that there is an increased need for education about alcohol dependence and potential treatment options,” said Dr. Melissa Fritsche, an addiction medicine specialist in Spartanburg, South Carolina, of the study.

“Providing people with the tools to understand and acknowledge their behaviors and speak to their healthcare providers is an important step in supporting people to get help if they need it,” Fritsche added.

The survey found that 23% of participants gave up or cut back on activities they enjoyed in order to drink. Although the survey found that 87% of those engaging in “heavy drinking” were not undergoing treatment for their alcohol consumption, it showed that more than half of these respondents feel motivated to seek treatment options.

A key finding of the survey is that “many” individuals who drank heavily over the last year also noticed a decline in mental, psychosocial and physical health.

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