The big read: As ‘pandemic consumption’ hits the world, some Singaporeans turn to alcohol to cope with boredom and stress of COVID-19

In response to questions, the IMH’s National Addictions Management Service (Nams) said it had not seen any significant increase in cases of alcohol dependence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nonetheless, Dr Desmond Wai, a specialist in liver and gastrointestinal diseases at a private hospital, said he had seen more cases of alcoholism since the cutoff period between April and June last year. On average, there has been a new case every month since.

These cases tend to be pre-existing alcoholics who drank more because they had little social interaction with friends and less social support to help reduce their drinking.

Dr Wai noted that the effects of alcohol on the liver take several years to manifest and that it would be difficult to infer whether alcoholism increased during the COVID-19 crisis. “For us, to know if alcohol abuse is more or less widespread during the pandemic, it would take a similar population study,” he said.

DANGERS OF DRINK ALONE

Those who started drinking more frequently during the pandemic spoke about how the lack of social drinking with friends caused them to drink alone at home and over time it became a habit.

When Alex (not her real name) was in college, he drank most of his drinks in pubs with friends once or twice a week.

But once the 26-year-old started working at an investment bank last year, he found himself drinking a lot more than before.

He joined the bank in the midst of a pandemic, while its employees were working from home. For this reason, his drinking sessions now take place at home, sometimes in the middle of the workday.

Drinking alcohol, he said, is dealing with the stress of working in a high-stakes environment where a normal day can end at 3 a.m.

“For three months, I worked almost every weekend because there were too few juniors to share the workload. It’s a never-ending job, ”said Alex.

“And the Covid-19 has exacerbated everything. To my superiors who give work, you are just another name on Skype (video conferencing platform) and if they see you online you get work. The humanization aspect is just not there.

Every two or three days, he drinks about six cans of Japanese lemon cocktails that he gets from a convenience store. These sochu drinks can contain up to 9% alcohol by volume.

John, 26, also developed a habit of drinking regularly as the pandemic raged. In the past, he always drank in the company of friends and rarely drank alone.

Out of boredom while locked up at home during the blackout period, the college graduate began drinking at home – around 12 standard drinks a week – to pass the time.

It became a routine when he started working as a civil servant in July of last year and he now drinks about four times a week – a bottle of beer on weekdays and up to three times on Fridays and weekends. end.

“This is how I relax at night, after work and exercise, watching shows and drinking beer. I’d much rather go out with friends instead of drinking, but it’s difficult because of the COVID-19 restrictions, ”said John, who declined to give his full name.

Although drinking alcohol has become a habit for John, he maintains that he does not abuse alcohol and finds his new routine to be less unhealthy than when he drank excessively in college, so that he sometimes got drunk until he passed out.

John said he will have his alcohol delivered to his home from the iShopChangi duty-free store, which offers a variety of international brands on its website.

“I got into trying different beers, so drinking became a mini-hobby for me,” he said.

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