Binge drinkers increased their alcohol consumption by nearly 20% during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, according to new research by public health experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Their study, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, is one of the first to analyze the association of stress caused by the pandemic and dangerous alcohol consumption.
The study team surveyed nearly 2,000 adults in the United States in the spring of 2020. Their questions aimed to understand any stressors participants were experiencing stemming from COVID-19 lockdown orders, including amount of time spent at home, how many individuals were living in the participants’ household, any current or previous instances of depression, and any job impacts related to the pandemic such as decreased pay. They also surveyed participants about their drinking habits, classifying them as either binge drinkers, non-binge drinkers, or nondrinkers.
A team of National Institutes of Health-funded researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina has found that deactivating a stress-signaling system in a brain area known for motivation and emotion-related behaviors decreases binge drinking. The study, which was published online in February and is to appear in the May issue of Neuropharmacology, pinpoints a particular system in a specific brain region that can be manipulated to reduce harmful binge drinking.
The MUSC team was led by Howard C. Becker, Ph.D., director of the Charleston Alcohol Research Center and professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences.
“Binge drinking is one of the most common patterns in which alcohol is consumed,” explained Becker. “It’s a risky behavior, and one consequence of repeated binge drinking is increasing risk for developing an alcohol use disorder.”
Further, according to Becker, those who consistently binge drink, particularly during adolescent and college years, have almost 10 times the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.
But how much alcohol must be consumed to qualify a drinking session as a binge?
Regular readers are aware smoking is just not on as far as I am concerned here on the blog. It is simply self-destructive behavior. Besides lung cancer, smoking damages every organ in the body. I hope that regular readers are not smokers. Ditto binge drinking. I know this sounds like something from wild college days, but it turns out that there are a lot of adults out there who overdo the alcohol scene.
Because my family has both Alzheimers’ Disease and dementia on both sides, I am especially sensitive to cognitive decline. I want very much to keep my mental faculties intact for my entire life.
For that reason, I was struck by an item in USA TODAY by Janice Lloyd reporting from Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, Canada that binge drinking increases the risk of cognitive decline.
“Adults ages 65 and older who reported binge drinking at least twice a month were 2½ times more likely to suffer cognitive and memory declines than similar-aged adults who don’t binge-drink. Continue reading →