BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The pandemic is shedding light on a variety of societal issues, including alcoholism.
According to a recent study, during the pandemic, women have increased their heavy drinking days by 41% compared to before the pandemic.
“The trend nationally always mirrors the community locally,” explained Brandy Vandermark-Murray, the Senior Vice President of Operations for Horizon Health.
Horizon Health is a behavioral health agency that offers in and out patient treatment across Erie, Niagara, and Genesee counties.
“The stress, the isolation, the lack of healthy coping skills. They’re all contributing factors,” Vandermark-Murray said. “I don’t know any individual who can’t identify that this past year has been really challenging for them.”
Vandermark-Murray said many also lost daily structures of a work/life balance, and without structure, drinking alcohol became easier, more accessible, and more secretive. New York State even implemented an alcohol to go program during the pandemic.
In Buffalo, alcohol abuse was likely primed long before the pandemic. The Queen City has among the highest density of bars per capita compared to other U.S. cities. Most recent data from a 2019 Smart Asset survey shows Buffalo has 22 bars per 100,000 residents.
“What it does is it normalizes the behavior. So, you’re a young adult. You’re looking for something to do and if you have minimal non alcoholic activities in your community, the default is let’s go out for some drinks,” said Vandermark-Murray.
The University at Buffalo was recently awarded a $1.7 million grant from the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Researchers said the goal is to develop more effective ways to prevent and treat alcoholism.
“Alcohol is the fifth leading risk factor in deaths world wide. It’s responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than the opioid crisis. So, understanding this disorder and being able to treat it is a really important public health issue,” explained U.B. Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions Director Kenneth Leonard.
For more information on Horizon Health services, call 716-831-1800.