Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown on alcohol use disorders and complications : Current Opinion in Psychiatry

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ADDICTIVE DISORDERS: Edited by John B. Saunders and Linda B. Cottler

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown on alcohol use disorders and complications

Murthy, Pratimaa; Narasimha, Venkata Lakshmib

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Current Opinion in Psychiatry 34(4):p 376-385, July 2021. | DOI: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000720


Purpose of review 

To understand the effect of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown on persons with alcohol use disorders.

Recent findings 

From a total of 455 titles on COVID-19 and alcohol, 227 abstracts were screened, and 95 articles were reviewed (on November 25th, 2020). The immediate effect was an increase in alcohol related emergencies including alcohol withdrawal, related suicides, and methanol toxicity. Although there are mixed findings with respect to changes in the quantity of drinking, there are reports of binge/heavy drinking during the lockdown as well as relapse postlockdown. Psychological, social, biological, economic and policy-related factors appear to influence the changes in drinking. Although preliminary data suggest no change in alcohol use among persons with comorbid mental illness, findings in this population are presently limited. Among patients with alcohol related liver disease, outcomes appear worse and caution is warranted with the use of medications. Alcohol also appears to increases the risk of COVID-19 infection and complicates its course.

Although some nations banned alcohol sales completely during lockdown, others declared it as an essential commodity, resulting in different problems across countries. Alcohol use has added to the burden of the problem particularly among vulnerable groups like the adolescents, elderly, patients with cancer, as well as health professionals. Services for patients with alcohol use disorders have been affected.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had considerable impact on alcohol use, with an increase in alcohol related emergencies, changes in alcohol use patterns, increased risk of contracting COVID-19, effect on alcohol policies and sales, and an effect on vulnerable groups. It is essential to understand and respond to the current situation, intervene early, and prevent further repercussions of the pandemic.

Video abstract link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IJWtIs6e554PryKWhdma4VB--mjSZq1C/view?usp=sharing.

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