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

With workplaces and schools closed, you may have lost your usual routine or be worrying more, which can lead to increased 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 keep health risks from alcohol low, both men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week, on a regular basis.
  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or become pregnant, the chief medical officer’s advice is that no alcohol is the safest option. Find out more about alcohol and pregnancy.
  • For those under 18 years old, the Chief Medical Officer advises that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option.
  • If you are taking prescription medication, or any other drugs, it is important to be aware of how they interact with alcohol.
  • Visit count14.scot for more information.

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

Looking after your mental health

Social distancing and not having access to usual coping mechanisms or support systems 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.

Find out more about looking after your mental wellbeing.

Staying connected with others

Maintaining healthy social connections is very important.

While you may not have your usual contact with friends and family, technology has made it easier to connect with loved ones, whenever and wherever, you are.

If you can, use your smartphone, tablet or computer to speak with or video call friends, family members, counsellors, community groups and others who can help you get through this challenging time.

Discover ways to stay connected.

Tips to manage your drinking at home

Try not to stockpile as you're more likely to reach for a drink more often if it’s readily available.

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. However, 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.

If alcohol support services are available, you should use them, 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.

Alcohol support services are available

Support from the NHS and other services to help you with both cutting back and alcohol detox may be operating slightly differently during this time but help is still available.

Many local organisations are providing support online or by phone.

Your local community alcohol or addiction services 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.

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.

During the coronavirus outbreak you may not have as much contact with your usual support networks or be able to stay or visit friends and family.

Try to keep in touch by phone, or online. If you can, tell a trusted friend about your progress with alcohol, but talk about other things too.

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. This is no different during the coronavirus outbreak.

Many recovery communities and people in recovery are hosting a range of online 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

With the current restrictions and stresses this is undoubtedly a challenging time for many families.

You may be experiencing an increase in the use of alcohol by someone in the home or you may be concerned about a family member who is:

  • struggling to follow guidance on social distancing due to their drinking
  • going to the shops frequently to buy alcohol
  • potentially putting themselves and others in the household at risk from coronavirus.

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.

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 are offering support online or by phone.

Further information on where to get help.