Alcohol consumption linked to pandemic causes increased need for liver transplants, research finds

CHAPEL HILL, NC (WNCN) – Have you had more beer, wine and cocktails since the start of the pandemic? Lots of people have.

After a year and a half of adding alcohol to people’s diets, researchers are starting to see the side effects.

“Liver transplant lists are up about 50% from pre-COVID projections,” said Dr. Andrew Moon, assistant professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

He is concerned about the growing number of people waiting for a new liver across the state and country.

Moon told CBS 17 there was a 30% increase in hospitalizations for people with hepatitis and alcohol-related liver problems.

“We have to take this problem very seriously,” he said.

Researchers are trying to figure out what is causing the spike, but they have some ideas.

“In a post-COVID-19 era, increased alcohol consumption may contribute to an increase in severe alcohol-related liver disease requiring liver transplantation,” Moon said.

Studies have shown that people have bought and drunk more alcohol in the past two years, especially during the height of the pandemic.

“Economic effects of the pandemic, disruption at work and school, psychosocial stressors from the pandemic and the shift in alcohol consumption from bars and restaurants to the home,” Moon said.

He said that these liver problems are quite serious.

“The six-month mortality is around 70%,” he said.

Once the damage is done, it is difficult to get a new liver.

“Only about 6% (of patients) will end up on the liver transplant list,” Moon said. “We need to ask patients about their alcohol consumption. The most important treatment is to stop drinking (and) the second most important treatment is to improve nutrition.

He believes healthcare workers need to take a more proactive approach to helping people prevent more serious health problems.

Moon also told CBS that 17 other young women suffered from alcohol-related liver disease.

It’s something doctors were seeing before COVID-19, but he said the pandemic was only exacerbating the trend.

About Michael Brafford

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