A SOCIAL media bombardment promoting alcohol as a coping mechanism to survive the pandemic is adding a "crushing weight" to communities' most vulnerable people, Sober in the Country's founder says.
One alcohol advertisement is shown every 35 seconds on a person's social media accounts, a new study has found in analysing posts in a one-hour span on a Friday night.
This comes after a 36 per cent jump in takeaway sales amid panic buying as Australians entered lockdown in the last weekend of March.
Sober in the Country chief Shanna Whan, who overcame her alcoholism, told The Courier she knew too well the challenges living in "permanent isolation" could bring.
Ms Whan founded her grassroots charity as a private peer support group for hundreds of rural working Australians, many of whom were at high risk of slipping through the cracks in tackling alcohol abuse because they seemed okay.
She said many had struggled with the endless barrage of booze promotion the past two months - and this was affecting communities across the nation.
"It is literally in your face, 24-7, at the moment," Ms Whan said.
"Sober in the Country is not about prohibition or even anti-alcohol. Our charity exists to raise awareness around how we can better support those of our mates who can't safely enjoy a drink in moderation.
"But right now - moderation is out the window when it comes to this relentless push from 'Big Alcohol' to get their product out at any cost during a pandemic.
"To those of us who see the underbelly of this on a daily basis, it reeks of zero social conscious and of putting profit before people - and that is something we will call out.''
Ballarat Community Health alcohol and other drugs manager Suzanne Powell has maintained during the pandemic her warning increased stress and time to drink in isolation 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.
Ms Powell has said risk patterns changed over time and when people moved to drinking more regularly, they could develop greater dependency beyond isolation.
The latest study, from Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education with Cancer Council WA, found marketing messages used to promote alcohol during COVID-19 were playing on known risk factors for harmful drinking including drinking at home or alone, buying more and drinking to cope.
The report found in past pandemics increased stress, confusion and anger can lead to higher rates of alcohol dependency and people were at risk for these habits to continue post-isolation. In turn, this exacerbates social and complex health issues.
For help or advice about a loved one's drinking or drug use, Ballarat Community Health maintains a full suite of counselling programs via phone or video conferencing, phone 5338 4500.
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