Panic-buying on alcohol might seem funny during the coronavirus - insert your Mexican beer pun here - but drug experts are cautioning people to be mindful of potential health impacts from drinking in isolation.
Ballarat Community Health alcohol and other drugs manager Suzanne Powell said a rush on bottle shops might just be for stockpiling in isolation but this was also demonstrative of a bigger cultural and social issue.
"It does indicate alcohol is a priority to buy and that's a concern if that's important right now," Ms Powell said.
"To me, it clarifies the issues with the amount people are drinking."
Takeaway alcohol sales jumped more than 36 per cent in the past week, the latest Commonwealth Bank spending data of its customers shows. Overall spending on alcohol was up 34 per cent on last week - and this was after a 20.4 per cent rise from the week before.
Liquorland, Vintage Cellars, Dan Murphy's, BWS and Aldi were among big name franchises limiting liquor per transactions from Tuesday.
It does indicate alcohol is a priority to buy and that's a concern if that's important right now.Suzanne Powell, Ballarat Community Health
Ms Powell said increased stress and time to drink in isolation, particularly with a change in work and social routine, made this a high risk time for people to develop different, more dangerous drinking habits recreationally or to use new habits as a coping strategy.
"Risk patterns change over time and as people move to drinking on a more regular basis, they might develop greater dependency," Ms Powell said.
"We're thinking about the fact there will be children in homes too, they're not going to school. There is some concerned thoughts about role-modelling. If children see adults turning to alcohol and other drugs as coping, this could become learned behaviour over time."
Stress, social isolation, changed financial circumstances and change in routine are already sparking greater mental health issues generally, Ms Powell said, and adding alcohol or other drugs into the mix could exacerbate this in the short and long-term.
Ms Powell said decreased exercise and increased couch time with drinking could impact physical well-being and dental health from sugar.
This was also a high-risk time for people recovering from addiction to relapse with increased stress and without the same support structures and routines in place.
Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council revised its alcohol guidelines for healthy men and women in December to no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than four in one day to reduce the risk of alcohol-related disease or harm.
Australian guidelines also say adults should have at least one to two alcohol-free days each week.
Ballarat drinkers consume alcohol at a marginally more dangerous level than the average Australian, the latest Mitchell Institute data showed, and the rate was higher in the Golden Plains and Hepburn shires.
Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education chief Caterina Giorgi said this past week's spending data told a troubling story about alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This data confirms our fears around the potential for COVID-19 to fuel alcohol harm, including alcohol dependence, alcohol-fuelled violence and chronic disease," Ms Giorgi said.
"COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. We are understandably anxious and scared at the possibility of getting sick, we are worried because of our changed financial circumstances, and we are socially isolated which means we're away from our normal routines."
Ms Giorgi also stressed the impact of behaviours we adopt now will stick with us beyond the pandemic.
Ballarat Community Health maintains a full suite of counselling programs, including those for alcohol and other drugs, via phone or video conferencing (if suitable). BCH is also running virtual drink-drive or drug-drive sessions.
Family support services are also available for those concerned about a loved one's drinking behaviour or other drug use.
For Ballarat Community Health services, phone 5338 4500.
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