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Alcohol use disorder, treatment and signs of excessive drinking

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Alcohol use was already changing before the pandemic, but lockdowns and behavior changes drove up drinking in the first two years of the pandemic.

Many people drank to cope with the accumulated pressures – the uncertainty, loss of connection to others, fear of death, and the political and racial tensions that reached an apex in the summer of 2021, said Dr. Victor Karpyak, a psychiatrist who studies the genetics of alcoholism at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Using alcohol to cope with stress actually makes the situation worse, said George Koob, who directs the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

“When the alcohol wears off, the demons return with a vengeance,” he said. 

Is any amount of alcohol safe? It depends on your taste for risk.

Alcohol-related deaths continued to increase in 2021, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the U.S., 5% of adults meet criteria for alcohol addiction.

But while the stereotype is that only those who have an addiction problem will face health consequences, the overall public health effect of drinking is driven by the 60% of adults who drink less heavily, said Dr. Brian Lee, a liver specialist at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

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