IIn the first wave of panic buying coronaviruses in Australia, buyers gathered toilet paper. Then they came to get pasta, rice and canned food. A week later, there was a shortage of towels, paper towels and handkerchiefs.
On March 22, there was a rush for bottle stores as buyers, thinking that the stores could close under new laws, were stocking alcohol. In the confusion over whether bottle stores were an essential service, the carts were filled with spirits, wine and cases of beer.
“I can point out that there is now panic shopping at Dan Murphy’s. Every car spot in our local branch is full, everyone is busy. We are going to be a socially isolated country for a while” , wrote one person. on Twitter.
Commsec reported spending increased by more than 20% in the week ending March 20 compared to the same period last year; and in the week before March 27, spending at Australian liquor stores increased 86%. Although this increase was offset by the closure of bars, restaurants and pubs, Australians that week spent 34% more on alcohol than in the same period the previous year.
Now we’re all sitting at home drinking our stored alcohol and hosting app parties, but experts are warning that, in addition to the pandemic, we are facing another public health crisis – binge drinking. ‘alcohol.
On the weekend of March 22, Peter, 59, marketing manager for the upper north coast of Sydney, was in the liquor store.
His wife brought three cases of champagne, while he bought “two lots of wine – three cases [12 bottles] both times – and it’s time to refresh them. “
“Since I have been working from home, I have slipped into bad ways. I don’t care yet – but it’s not a good habit, ”says Peter, who has been locked out for two weeks.
Before quarantine, he only drank on weekends, but now he says, “We are both [Peter and his wife] work from home and we drink every day from 5.30pm. For now, there are no consequences – no one notices if you get a little wooly the next day, and other people are in the same boat. There are a lot of drinking memes going around. I’m not at all surprised that… sales go through the roof, ”he says.
Professor Michael Farrell, director of the National Drug and Alcohol The Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said the scenes aired in late March in crowded bottle stores showed “that there has been an assault on bottle stores – and it “It’s very clear that sales have increased. The vulnerability concerns people who are already on the margins of excessive alcohol consumption. They have had their constraints removed.”
These constraints, removed by staying at home, include being able to drink during the day or a hangover without being detected by employers.
But he says people also drink because of “the anxiety about the complex social situation we find ourselves in.” People are worried about their work, their finances and their illness. They store alcohol – it’s a social storm. ”
Chris Raine, founder of Hello Sunday Morning, a movement that aims to help people reduce or quit drinking through an accountability app and online counseling, has noticed an “increase” in service since people started isolate yourself. “Registrations have doubled,” he says.
“It’s really scary enough to be honest – it’s a perfect storm because you have an alcohol-dependent culture to de-stress and manage anxiety and now these stresses and anxieties have gone through the roof because of the virus . “
Raine fears that under these conditions, “this creates a situation where people are used to drinking daily”.
This unusual situation creates the possibility of a cascading effect, explains Raine. Weekend drinkers become week drinkers; social drinkers become daily drinkers; and those who fight soberly, who have relied on face-to-face assistance from groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (who now use Zoom due to rules of physical distancing), will relapse.
Farrell agrees, saying that people “are socially isolated – so normal help is gone.”
He hopes apps like Daybreak (developed by Raine’s Hello Sunday Morning team) will fill the gap created by the suspension of face-to-face support groups and advice.
“One of the things you can do is promote telephone services to advise people – it’s not very difficult to move on to that,” he says. “And you can use apps to get help while isolating yourself.” Prevention programs will come later. “
Farrell is saying right now “the only thing you could do [to halt the problem] is potentially to ration sales. “
Currently, the industry’s self-imposed rationing limit is quite generous, says Farrell.
On April 1, large alcohol retailers in most states (except Western Australia where measures are already in effect) signed a voluntary code that limits the amount of alcohol customers can buy in one transaction.
Beer, cider and premixed spirits are limited to two cases and wine to 12 bottles per customer, while barrel wine and bottled spirits are limited to two items each.
Any other restrictions, such as closing bottle stores, could be too much to bear, says Farrell, because “there is enough social control right now.”
Instead, “we need to focus people on learning about physical and mental health hygiene and good diets around exercise and food.” People should have a certain number of days when they give up alcohol. ”
When Raine saw “the rush to buy alcohol,” he said, “My gut reaction was” typical “and” understandable, “but when I dig into it, that’s how Australians see alcohol as a essential service – seeing alcohol almost culturally as an essential drug. “
Raine recognizes that if the bottle stores were not seen as an essential service and closed, the results would be disastrous. “There are believed to be tens of thousands of people who involuntarily detox and lack the health care system to cope. I would like people not to be culturally dependent on alcohol as they do. “
For people like Peter, who is entering his third week in social isolation, this is the week to start tracking his drinking.
“There are times when it’s okay to say ‘fuck it’ and get drunk, but you can’t keep it up throughout the crisis.”
Friday night, Peter was going to have his first drink with friends, but the following week, he decided to only start drinking two evenings a week on weekends.
“It’s very new territory – it’s difficult,” says Raine. “But all the difficult things bear the fruit of the occasion. And we can grow and become more resilient. “