We are living through difficult times of confinement and isolation, which could have a significant impact on our drinking habits.

It is well known that environment and circumstances greatly affect the way people drink. And now, with our environment and circumstances changed so dramatically, many of the markers that usually help structure our drinking have been profoundly altered.

Some of the natural brakes on excessive drinking are simply no longer there. For example, many people limit their drinking because they don’t want to drive while impaired. But now, nobody is going anywhere, and the temptation to “have another” is sure to arise.

Then there’s the matter of greater access. At work, whether it’s an office, a factory, a store or a jobsite, there’s generally no alcohol within easy reach. But at home, a glass of something is rarely more than a few steps away.

What’s more, when people are stuck at home, they tend to lose the structure of time, a little like on vacation when there’s no schedule to guide their decisions. The hours stretch out endlessly, there’s less of a need to stay alert, it seems like down time, all the time. We give ourselves permission to do things we would not do otherwise.

And let’s not ignore the increased stress, and sometimes even high anxiety, of these trying times. Sure, a drink can help you relax. But if one drink tends to lead to another, that’s when the danger of excessive drinking rears its head.

So what can you do to stay in the “moderation zone”?

First of all, and we can never repeat this enough, count your drinks. It’s crazy how we all underestimate how much we drink, and that’s under normal circumstances. In seclusion, the tendency is even more pronounced.

Second, and this is equally important, be more vigilant than ever about sticking to the recommended low-risk drinking guidelines: no more than two drinks a day for women, no more than three for men, and ideally no drinks at all at least two days a week, for everyone.

Also, alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. To help you enjoy the process, Éduc’alcool has created the website alternalcohol.com, which features more than 150 recipes for delicious mocktails. Drinking alcohol is never a requirement, and these options are a fine alternative. But don’t abuse them, either, because many of them are on the sweet side and extra sugar is never a great idea.

For anyone looking to “treat” their loneliness with alcohol, remember that alcohol is not medication and the stores that sell it are not pharmacies. Self-medication is not a solution and alcohol cannot compensate for the emptiness created by solitude. Call your family and friends, connect with others online, get some exercise and fresh air, listen to music, do some cooking… and if you’re having a hard time, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

For people who drink heavily on a regular basis, there’s just one piece of advice: cut back. Regular heavy drinking weakens your immune system, and that’s really not something you want at this time.

If you’re in good health, a little drink now and then can be very pleasant and there’s no need to deprive yourself during a lockdown. Virtual happy hours, where people use meeting apps to get together for a drink and some conversation, can be a fun option, provided they don’t turn to excess, or get competitive with regard to who can drink more.

Above all, remember that, especially during a time of pandemic and isolation, moderation is always in good taste.

 

Hubert Sacy
Director General
Éduc’alcool