Research suggests that individuals may be less aware of problematic drinking habits due to increased normalization of alcohol consumption during a pandemic.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Grab a bottle during the pandemic to deal with added anxiety, stress, and free time? If so, you are not alone.
KOIN 6 News previously reported on several surveys that found alcohol consumption increased during COVID-19, but a recent study suggests happy hour may have gotten longer for Oregonians – because 618,000 inhabitants are now considered “grey zone drinkers”.
The study conducted by AmericanAddictionCenters.org surveyed 3,704 people over the age of 21 about their current drinking habits. This study found that approximately 27% of Oregon residents “sometimes drank alcohol excessively or emotionally, even though they did not have a serious alcohol use disorder.”
This behavior is classified by the study in the gray area of alcohol consumption.
“Although not an official medical diagnosis, ‘drinking in the gray zone’ can be described as a space between two extreme behaviors: drinking in the realm between acceptable moderate drinking and a diagnosed alcohol use disorder,” the study said. “Those who drink in this zone may consume alcohol emotionally or excessively, which can lead to mental health, relationship and work issues.”
According to the study, most participants who exhibited behaviors that would classify them as gray-zone drinkers did not believe they had a substance abuse problem.
Research suggests that these people may be less aware of problematic drinking habits due to increased normalization of alcohol consumption during the pandemic.
“During the pandemic, some have turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism for the stress and anxiety of everyday life, slowly but surely increasing their drinking habits, but failing to recognize the impact of these incremental increases. “, explains the study.
The organization continued: “…if everyone around them drinks the same amount or more, it can normalize or lessen the consequences of those actions.”
The study also found that people between the ages of 25 and 34 were among the highest percentage of gray zone drinkers, with nearly 32% fitting the behavioral description.
According to the research, residents between the ages of 35 and 44 have the second highest percentage of gray zone drinkers, with 25% meeting the study criteria – a slight increase from the 24% of gray zone drinkers. reported between 18 and 24.
The survey showed that more than a third of participants had a relaxed attitude toward drinking in the gray zone, a view that the American Addiction Center says could eventually lead these people to develop a more serious alcohol use disorder down the road.
“When asked if they considered gray area drinking to be a problematic habit, more than a third (36%) of people actually said they did not consider it a problem,” the report said. ‘study. “This could be a serious concern when it comes to warning signs of alcohol use in gray areas, as some may not identify them as worrisome, which could lead to more serious complications.”
Blurring of boundaries around heavy drinking may be the result of a lack of education, according to the study, which found nearly half of respondents were unaware of official CDC guidelines on alcohol consumption when examining their personal drinking habits.
However, the study also suggests that the classification of extreme drinking may be too low stating: “The CDC says that a majority (90%) of those who drink heavily do not meet the clinical criteria for a serious alcohol use disorder, but simultaneously, those criteria are lower than many people think.
According to official guidelines, severe alcohol use disorder is classified as anything over eight drinks per week for women and over 15 drinks per week for men.
“With the boundaries of binge drinking now blurred, it can become difficult to prevent problematic habits from escalating,” the study states. “If left untreated, drinking in the gray zone can quickly lead to more serious problems, such as alcohol use disorder or the development of other addictions.”
According to the study, some of the main signs of gray are drinking alcohol often more than expected, actively questioning a relationship with alcohol, and the inability to stop at will or spend a day without drinking.
American addiction centers offer Resources for anyone struggling with substance use.