Alcoholism amid COVID-19 is a very real issue and tangible data continues to roll in, proving just how bad it has gotten. In our own home region of Southern California, excessive drinking is leading to a sharp increase in hospitalizations and liver disease diagnoses.
Local Los Angeles news org KTLA was the most recent outlet to report on these findings. For the record, cirrhosis and other liver diseases were still on the rise before quarantining and the coronavirus pandemic began. Over 15 million people across the country had been diagnosed with these types of issues and that amount doubled during the 2010’s. But now, we’re seeing an even sharper spike.
According to new data from Keck Hospital of USC, alcohol liver disease hospital admissions were up by 30 percent in 2020. That happens to be a very significant jump and one that doctors around the southland are concerned about.
“There’s been a tremendous influx,” local physician, Dr. Haripriya Maddur, explained. “Many of my patients were doing just fine before the pandemic, having avoided relapse for years. But subject to the stress of the pandemic, all of the sudden, [they] were in the hospital again.”
Another alarming fact is that the people afflicted are becoming younger and younger. The article went on to state that a large percentage of the recent hospital patients were under the age of 40. It is believed that the stressors of the pandemic are big contributors to this trend. Job losses, financial hardships and general anxiety were listed as just a few of the catalysts driving people to drink more.
And for the record, liver disease can tun into to big health problems down the line. High levels of alcohol ingestion create toxic byproducts which cause dangerous inflammations. That, in turn, can lead to hepatitis and scarring of the liver. And if these types of issues go untreated, they can most certainly develop into liver cancer.
It is worth noting as well, that those with compromised livers are also more susceptible to COVID-19. And with weakened immune systems, it is not uncommon for people with cirrhosis to succumb to coronavirus’ deadly symptoms.
Yes, vaccines may offer hope for COVID-19. But the sad part is, alcoholism will have already set its claws into millions of new people by the time the pandemic ends. It is not easy to just put down the bottle once quarantines cease, which is why the doctors interviewed for this piece are all encouraging possible alcoholics to quickly seek out help.