Man reaching for alcoholic drink

It’s Always Five O’clock Somewhere

Even during the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, its still 5 o’clock somewhere. After all, its been a long day of working from home, managing children, playing home-based teacher, caring for an elderly loved one- all the while feeling both cooped-up and socially isolated.  And uprooted from a normal routine.  That’s a lot of stress, right?  Why not kick back and enjoy a glass or two (or maybe three) of wine or some cold beers or a couple of mixed drinks?

COVID-19 And Home Use Alcohol Sales

Apparently, that is just what Americans have been doing in extraordinary numbers since the onset of the national emergency. Even while large producers of alcoholic beverages and craft brewers alike have seen their businesses flounder since March due to the closings of restaurants and bars, alcohol sales for home use have skyrocketed.  Home use alcohol sales increased especially fast early in the crisis when stocking up on economy sized cases of beer seemed as popular as America’s favorite pastime, hoarding toilet paper.  The sales curve leveled off some in April,  but was still higher that usual.  

Who can blame people for a little 5 o’clock celebration? Our lives are stressful enough in normal times, and life today is anything but normal, even as some states begin to re-open their economies.  Beer, wine and liquors all contain the legal drug alcohol. Alcohol like most psycho-active drugs is very reliable. It’s a type of drug called a depressant.  That means if you’re very tense, wound up and have a lot of stress hormones flowing through your body like cortisol and adrenaline, then alcohol’s effect almost always creates a feeling of relaxation and loosened inhibitions.  It’s a reliable friend in a crisis.  

Man reaching for alcoholic drink

Alcohol As A Stress Reliever

However, this reliability has a dark side, a pitfall for some.  Since stress is also a reliable daily part of our lives, alcohol can become our main stress-reliever leading to health problems like a weakened immune system and even to alcoholism.  Another consequence is that alcohol use, especially in amounts over one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, interferes with our cognition and our ability to make good decisions.  Add that aspect to its impairment of muscle coordination and it’s easy to understand why automobile drivers who have been drinking are literally accidents waiting to happen.

Furthermore, alcohol’s affect on decision-making can lead to increased risks of conflicts with the ones we love the most, and even to domestic violence. In fact, the NY Times recently reported on a surge of domestic violence worldwide associated with sheltering in place.  Even in “normal” times in the U.S. about one in four women and a smaller percentage of men experience intimate partner violence.

Alcohol has been a reliable friend of humankind for thousands of years.  Most people who drink do so safely and responsibly.  But in these unusual times, if you drink it might be a good opportunity to engage in a little introspection and examination of your drinking and its relationship to stress relief. 

If you would like to learn more about this topic there are many online resources available.  If you are concerned about your own or a loved one’s relationship with alcohol a good resource for confidential assistance is a tele-medicine consultation with your physician or healthcare provider or with your Employee or Student Assistance Program. 

Additional Resources

CDC Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol      Note to editor, edit the hyperlink to read: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence   

Partnership Against Domestic Violence

National Institute of Mental Health

About Espyr

Espyr has been helping people – employees, students, members –  achieve and maintain good health so they can perform at their best for over 30 years.  Clients in the most challenging occupations rely on Espyr’s industry leading coaching, counseling and mental health advocacy  programs  to maintain employee health and well-being.  For more information contact Jeffrey Joo at 888-570-3479 or