Alcohol during quarantine: how much is too much?


(WJHL)- Coronavirus has impacted nearly every aspect of American’s lives, including drinking habits. Research from Neilsen shows US alcohol sales rose 55% last month. Countless online articles detail how to mix the perfect ‘qaurantini’ at home. But when it comes to increased consumption negatively impacting your health, how much is too much?

“There’s a lot anxiety, fear, people are feeling stuck, frustrated, bored. Stress is a huge risk factor for people using and relapsing,” said Chad Duncan with Frontier Health.

Duncan is the Division Director for Tennessee Adult Outpatient Addiction Services. He says current, former, and new patients are having issues with consumption during this time.

“We’re starting to see some people in recovery start to have more relapses,” he said. “We’re having meetings and hearing more and more people relapsing and having increased use, so it really is a big deal.”

Increased alcohol consumption during quarantine will not necessarily lead to addiction, but is something to be mindful of. Duncan says signs of substance problems will vary from person to person, especially in the unique situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s hard to plan for something like this,” said Duncan. “Almost everyday, we’re having to think differently about what we see that would be a risk for someone and how they’re dealing with it.”


Monique Richard, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Johnson City, says the key is preventing drinking in excess.

“Because then you’re taking away the rest of your system’s function to get yourself nourished and support your immune system, to support your respiratory system,” said Richard.

Richard advises sticking to serving sizes. This is one 12 ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 – 2 ounces of hard liquor.

“And I would say no more than two to three times a week if possible,” said Richard. “Maybe this is a high stress time, and every night you need just a little something. And that’s okay. Give yourself permission to relax, there are some benefits to it, nutrition wise.”

One trick Richard uses is adding seltzer to wine to make a drink last longer and stick to appropriate portion size.

“It’s [about] looking at everything for its purpose, and looking at it in a way that’s balanced and more moderate,” she said.


Duncan said stress and anxiety during this time is normal, and can come from losing employment or having loved ones affected by the virus. He encourages healthy coping mechanisms like exercise, meditation, reading, and cooking. Maintaining positive support systems with family and friends is also helpful. If you’re stuck inside, he says having a daily schedule can help.

“It doesn’t have to be very rigid, but at least have some sort of normalcy within this, so you’ve got a routine,” Duncan said.

If you need more help, you can get addiction treatment referral by calling the Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789.

Duncan also said AA groups are still offering virtual meetings.

“For some people it might be a good opportunity to even start that. Going to groups might be a little bit scary. Doing it over the phone might be a little bit easier,” he said.

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