Alcohol Use During the Pandemic

Alcohol Use During the Pandemic

If you feel like you drink than usual during the current pandemic, you aren’t alone. In previous pandemics like SARS and H1N1, many healthcare workers said that they drank more alcohol than usual during and after the pandemic.


Many people use alcohol to cope with difficult feelings like stress, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, boredom and isolation. It’s a common response to trauma, grief, or other difficult experiences. However, alcohol can cause problems when people drink too much or too often.


Here are some signs that you may need to think about making changes to the way you drink:


  • Drinking alcohol is the only way you manage stress, fear, uncertainty, and other uncomfortable feelings
  • Drinking alcohol is the only way you can relax or unwind at the end of the day
  • You often drink more than you intend
  • Your relationships with family, friends, or coworkers are strained due to drinking
  • You have a hard time stopping once you’ve started drinking
  • You miss work or other obligations as a result of drinking
  • You find yourself in unsafe situations, like driving after drinking

Not sure where you stand? Take the Alcohol Reality Check at to help you understand your relationship with alcohol.


Drinking more than usual right now doesn’t automatically mean that you have a drinking problem. It may be a sign that you need extra help and support right now, and there are people who can help you out:


  • Care to Speak: Confidential online peer support with healthcare workers who understand what you’re going through. Visit
  • PHSA’s Mobile Response Team: 24/7 support for healthcare workers. Call 1-888-686-3022 or email
  • Your Family/Employee Assistance Program: Contact your workplace F/EAP provider to see how they can help you.
  • Alcohol & Drug Information Referral Service: Free, confidential information and referrals to local service providers and support groups. Call 604-660-9382 in the Lower Mainland or 1-800-663-1441 toll-free.

For more on making healthier changes to your alcohol use, download the workbook You and Substance Use: Stuff to think about…and ways to make changes

Alcohol can cause problems when people drink too much or too often. 


If Drinking Affects You at Work

If your alcohol use is part of an alcohol use disorder that you are seeking treatment to resolve, it’s treated as a health problem. In BC, employers can’t discriminate based on any disability, which includes a mental illness or substance use disorder. Your employer has to try to make reasonable changes to help you if you disclose or say that you have a disability, such as allow you to take time off for treatment. However, it’s also reasonable for employers to set guidelines that keep everyone safe, such as prohibiting intoxication at work. If you belong to a union, they may have a disability management program or a staff member who can help you. Ask your steward if you need help contacting your union.


To Learn More

Learn about Alcohol: Factsheet from the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research

Web Resources

For more information, we have compiled a list of resources to help you cope up with anxiety during these difficult days.

6 Tips to Respond to Employee Anxiety About COVID-19

Meant for employers and managers, this webpage created by the Canadian Mental Health Association contains tips for responding to the feeling of anxiety staff may be having.

7 Science-based Strategies to Cope with Coronavirus Anxiety

In this article hosted on The Conversation, psychologist Jelena Kecmanovic provides science-based methods on dealing with anxiety caused by COVID-19.

How to Stay Psychologically Healthy During the Coronavirus Outbreak

This article by Psychology Today provides proven techniques for managing stress and anxiety over the COVID-19 outbreak.