I’ll drink to that

Admit it.  We non-essentials locked into our homes didn’t spend all that secluded time reading the classics.  With the grocery store and the liquor store among the few allowed outings, we of course bought a few things for home use.  I thoroughly enjoyed refining my cooking skills and to this day Kathy and I rarely bother to go out to eat.  And the cook needs a nip at hand while tending the stove, and that good food calls for an equivalent wine to wash it down.  And a glass at hand helps all those other idle activities – computer, reading, organizing the house, laundry, etc. – go better.   We were told from the get-go how important alcohol was to fighting Mr. Corona – all that hand sanitizer, dontcha know – and I told people many times, while dousing your hands with alcohol, don’t forget your insides!

Clearly, that advice was heeded by many, although I doubt I had much to do with it, aside from my own personal consumption.  Serious people examined this, and a meta-analysis published last July found plenty of evidence that drinking went way up during the pandemic, with a concomitant rise in medical complications, and even an increased risk of contracting COVID (1).  My friend Fred runs the liver service at U Hospital and told me his business skyrocketed.

That stay-at-home lockdown stuff was supposed to protect us.  As it turns out, it didn’t protect us from ourselves.  Published this week in JAMA were results from an examination of US mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics which were used to compare numbers and rates of alcohol-related and all-cause deaths among all individuals 16 years or older in 2019 and 2020 (2).  74,408 Americans ages 16 to 64 died from alcohol-related causes, whereas only 67,991 under 65 died with COVID-19 as an underlying cause.  And those were “with” numbers, so often the actual cause of death was something else.

Of course, we’re not satisfied just with the 2 carbon intoxicants.  Americans’ ever-increasing taste for opioids produced nearly 92,000 deaths from drug-involved overdoses in 2020, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids (3).  This number of opioid overdose deaths increased 38% in 2020 compared with 2019, with a 55% increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

So, was the cure worse than the disease?  Sure looks like it.  Mr. Corona did a number on us, but much of it wasn’t the virus’s fault.


1.         Murthy P, Narasimha VL. Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown on alcohol use disorders and complications. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2021;34(4):376-385. doi:10.1097/YCO.0000000000000720.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8183243/

2.         White AM, Castle IP, Powell PA, Hingson RW, Koob GF. Alcohol-Related Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA. Published online March 18, 2022. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.4308.  https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2790491

3.         National Institute on Drug Abuse.  Overdose death rates.  https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2790491

Published by rike52

I retired from the Rheumatology division of Michigan Medicine end of June '19 after 36 years there. Upon hitting Ann Arbor for the second time (I went to school here) it took me almost 8 months to meet Kathy, 17 months to buy her a house (on Harbal, where we still live), and 37 months to marry her. Kids never came, but we've been blessed with a crowd of colleagues, friends, neighbors and family that continues to grow. Lots of them are going to show up in this log eventually. Stay tuned.

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