Alcohol (and its effects for better or worse) have been around for a long time, strengthening social ties and bringing people together over food and dance. However, in America we are seeing a rise in solitary drinking, especially over the past year during the pandemic. As mental health professionals, it is important to inquire about drinking habits and offer support to people who may be showing signs of alcohol abuse or dependency.

America’s tumultuous relationship with alcohol is no new story. People have harnessed the powers of alcohol for years. But what used to be a social lubricant and even a creativity booster has morphed into a nationwide problem, leading to more deaths and fueling depression and anxiety. In a recent piece in the Atlantic, Kate Julian details what may be causing a crisis of alcohol abuse in recent years. She notes that people in the past were drinking a kind of alcohol that would not cause as much impairment as today’s alcohol does. Moreover, most people in early times were using alcohol primarily in social settings, coming together to eat, drink, and be merry. Fast forward to today, and the human relationship with alcohol seems quite different. Solitary drinking seems to be on the rise, especially in the past year of a pandemic, and the cost of misuse is extremely high. Experts estimate alcohol misuse is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in the United States each year.

For mental health professionals, the clear implication is that we must regularly inquire about alcohol habits. The well-established CAGE screening tool is a good one. The tool recommends asking patients whether they perceive a need to cut down alcohol use, if other people are annoyed by their drinking, if they feel guilt about their drinking, or if they need an “eye-opener” drink in the morning. Using this tool, and other diagnostics, it can be assessed whether a conversation about alcohol treatment is warranted. The patient may also be turning to alcohol to help quell anxiety or depression. At CalPsychiatry, our physicians can help assess for mental health disorders, and discuss safe, evidence-based approaches for alcohol misuse treatment. If you or a loved one is noticing that alcohol is doing more harm than good, please consider calling us to book a consultation. Call or book your free consultation today.


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