Overview

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak means you may be feeling more stressed or worried than usual.

In times of stress some people can drink more often or more heavily. But it’s more important than ever to look after your health and wellbeing.

Drinking alcohol can impact your health in many different ways including increasing the likelihood of accident or injury.

It can also lead to more serious health issues like cancer, stroke and heart disease.

The more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk.

Choosing to cut back on how much you drink may help reduce related health risks and complications linked to coronavirus. Alcohol can reduce the immune system’s ability to fight off infectious diseases and have an impact on the health of your heart and lungs.

Managing your drinking

Coronavirus has caused life to change, and people may react to that differently.

For some people, having no structure to their day alongside all the other worries and stresses can lead to an increase in alcohol consumption.

Keeping track of your drinking is even more important than usual.

Understanding why you drink, being aware of how many units you are drinking and the ways to reduce risks to your health and wellbeing can help you make informed choices.

For more information, read the low risk drinking guidelines.

To find ways to keep track of your drinking and see our tips on cutting down your drinking.

Looking after your mental health

Maintaining healthy social connections is very important and we have ways to help you stay connected.

Although physical distancing restrictions are changing you may not have access to your usual coping mechanisms or support systems and this can make you feel lonely and isolated.

You may drink alcohol to relax and forget your problems. Drinking can impact your mood making it more difficult to manage negative thoughts and feelings.

Long-term and frequent drinking can reduce mental wellbeing and contribute to feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.

If you are finding things tough and have noticed an increase in your drinking , speak with friends, family members, counsellors, community groups or anyone who can help you get through these challenging times.

Find out more about looking after your mental wellbeing.

Tips to manage your drinking at home

You're more likely to reach for a drink more often if it’s readily available so try not to have a lot of alcohol at home.

Find ways to relax and treat yourself that don’t involve alcohol, like cooking, family board games, a video call with friends or exercise.

Having a healthy diet and physical activity are also very important. Develop and maintain a routine that involves regular sleep, mealtimes and exercise.

If you do have a drink, stick to the low-risk weekly drinking guideline.

Set rules around your drinking, such as:

  • not drinking until your evening meal
  • only drinking at the weekend
  • not drinking in front of children.

Further information on where to get help.

If you're a heavy drinker and want to cut back or stop

The more heavily you drink, the higher the risks to your health.

You may suffer some withdrawal symptoms or complications when you cut back from heavy drinking. These may be serious but can often be managed with support.

Use available alcohol support services to help you cut back or stop, particularly if you're drinking more than 30 units a day, about:

  • a bottle of spirits
  • 3 bottles of wine
  • 7 cans of strong lager (7.5% or more)
  • 4 litres of white cider.

If you are a heavy drinker who is considering cutting down or stopping drinking completely Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems has guidance to help you.

Cutting back your drinking can be hard

Withdrawal symptoms and complications are more likely if you're reducing from a high level of drinking.

In severe cases alcohol withdrawal can cause:

  • Seizures (fits) even if you haven't had one before;
  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing or feeling things that aren’t there);
  • Confusion (about where you are, what time it is, who you're with);
  • Poor coordination and unsteadiness on your feet.

If you experience any of these symptoms please call 111 for urgent medical attention.

If you are planning to cut back it is a good idea to make contact with a support organisation beforehand. They can give useful support and advice before, during and after.

It is also a good idea to keep in touch with others. If you can, tell a trusted friend about your progress with alcohol, but talk about other things too.

Alcohol support services are available

Support from the NHS and other services, to help you with both cutting back and alcohol detox are available.

Some services may continue to operate slightly differently, for instance some organisations may provide support online or by phone initially, but help and support is available.

Your local addiction service will be able to give you up to date information. You can see where they're located on this map of current services or visit Scotland's Service Directory.

 

Further information on where to get help.

Recovery from alcohol

Creating and maintaining healthy social connections are very important and are valued by people in recovery.

There are many recovery communities and people in recovery hosting a range of online and face-to-face meetings, activities and check-ins.

To find out more about what recovery activities are available visit the Recoverist Network on Facebook and Twitter.

Support for friends and family members

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has undoubtedly been a challenging time for many families.

You may be experiencing an increase in the use of alcohol by someone in the home.

Situations like this can often have an impact on communication, relationships and family life, even if this has never been an issue before.

It is important you have the right advice to help you cope. This applies to all family members including young people and carers.

Where to get help

There are a number of organisations who can offer advice and support including Al-Anon and Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs.

Many organisations are continuing to offer help and support with alcohol related issues during the coronavirus outbreak.

As physical distancing continues, some organisations and groups may still be operating support online or by phone.

Further information on where to get help.