With drinks like the Quarantini, many people are toasting to their colleagues and friends and de-stressing from everything COVID-19 through virtual happy hours. It may seem like innocent fun, but physicians warn that turning to alcohol ― whether to escape or feel good ―can lead to a host of physical and mental problems, including alcohol dependence and depression.

“Socialization through Zoom happy hours can be fun and beneficial,” said Jonathan Fialkow, M.D., deputy medical director, chief of cardiology and certified lipid specialist at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “The concern, however, can include a sense of pressure to participate and drinking more than just a drink or two. And the fun may be fleeting.”

Typically, alcohol consumption spikes during holidays and times of crisis. During COVID-19, online alcohol orders have risen by nearly 30 percent, and curbside pick-up, drinks-to-go and bar drink kits make it easy to sip your favorite beer, wine or cocktail at home in isolation or with groups in virtual parties.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is best to avoid alcohol altogether during the pandemic because it can undermine your immune system and even increase your risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), one of the causes of death from COVID-19. In addition, they stress that alcohol can impair thinking and lead to risk-taking behavior, negatively affect every organ of the body and is closely linked with violence.

If you choose to drink, be wary. A study by the British Medical Journal showed that between 1999 and 2016, the death rate of young adults ages 25-34 from alcohol-related liver disease nearly tripled. Alcohol-related deaths are the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing some 85,000 people annually, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Even among otherwise healthy people, “alcohol can have deleterious effects,” Dr. Fialkow said. “It can cause a poor night’s sleep, raise blood pressure and blood sugar and cause long-term bad health consequences.” Alcohol is known to be a risk factor for certain cancers, and if you are pregnant, can harm the fetus. Alcohol does not destroy the coronavirus.

There is much debate over what is considered a healthy amount of alcohol. Some organizations, such as the WHO, say no amount is safe. Dr. Fialkow says a general guideline is no more than 1-3 drinks daily (or under 7 drinks a week) for a woman and 1-4 daily (or under 14 drinks a week) for a man. Anything above these numbers is considered heavy alcohol use. “There should be no allowance for more alcohol during a crisis than social drinking otherwise,” he said.

Those who have addictive tendencies need to be especially mindful. “Know yourself. If you have a family history or a personal history of alcohol abuse, stay away,” Dr. Fialkow said. “If you find you are craving alcohol or desire it during the day, stay away and seek help if necessary.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many addiction treatment programs, support groups and mental health crisis centers are reporting an uptick in calls. If you think you may have a problem, talk to your primary care physician or another health professional and/or contact one of the hotlines.

Healthy ways to cope with stress include sticking to a routine, exercising daily, talking walks outside, eating healthy and natural foods and getting a good night’s sleep.


For appointments, physician referrals, or second opinions please call us at 786-755-1409. International patients, please call 786-596-2373.

Related Stories


Heart Valve Procedures in a COVID-19 World: Here are the Facts

At the height of the COVID-19 shutdown, a frail, 93-year-old man needed a complex aortic valve replacement to survive. Physicians at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute didn’t hesitate.

‘Life’s Simple 7’ Steps: Lowering Risk for Heart Disease More Vital Than Ever

When it comes to COVID-19, older adults with coronary heart disease or high blood pressure are more likely to develop more severe symptoms, states the American Heart Association (AHA).

For African-Americans in COVID-19 Era, Focus on Heart Health is More Vital Than Ever

New research on coronavirus patients adds to a growing collection of studies that COVID-19 disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities.

Rule Out DVT: Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute Expedites Diagnoses of ‘Deep Vein Thrombosis’

Deep vein thrombosis, better known as DVT, refers to a blood clot that forms in a deep vein.

Wearing Face Masks or ‘Cloth Coverings’ Helps Slow Spread of COVID-19

The required use of face masks could slow the spread of the coronavirus by as much as 40 percent daily, according to a new study.

A Trip to the ER During COVID-19

Sam Verdeja went to bed the night of May 14th with some discomfort in his lower left abdomen.

Meet Ken Davis: A ‘Walking-Talking Miracle’ After Aortic Dissection

An estimated 90 percent of people who suffer an aortic dissection die on the spot. That sobering statistic is why Ken Davis, 64, spends more time than most reflecting on his good fortune.

What You Need to Know About COVID-19 Testing

As a second wave of COVID-19 cases continues to spread across South Florida, Baptist Health is committed to caring for the community, especially those with urgent and emergent healthcare needs.