Alcohol consumption

Rise in alcohol use during COVID-19 worries unemployment insurance officials

Liquor sales in Iowa have increased dramatically during the pandemic, causing officials to worry about future alcohol problems


The state of Iowa has seen an increase in alcohol consumption as a result of the pandemic. The Iowa Alcoholic Beverage Division reports that in fiscal year 2020, alcohol sales grew by an unprecedented 8.2% from $339 million to $367 million statewide.

According to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholismthe pandemic has the potential to worsen the existing problem of alcoholism in the United States.

Paul Gilbert, who is an assistant professor at the UI College of Public Health, said that even before the pandemic, Iowa was considered a high-drinking state in a high-drinking region.

Iowa is consistently above the national average for binge drinking events, Gilbert said.

“It’s not necessarily that there are more people who drink alcohol in Iowa than in other states, but people who drink consume larger amounts,” Gilbert said. “We’re around the national average in terms of the percentage of adult drinkers. But adults who drink tend to drink larger amounts than their peers in other states.

Gilbert said he expects data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey to reflect an increase in alcohol consumption when it becomes available later this year.

“I would really expect to see that alcohol consumption has increased, given what we know from national data and early indications from sales data and tax data,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said he doesn’t think the state is very well prepared to handle an increase in alcohol-related problems and that more treatment resources are needed.

“I think what we need to do is step up our efforts to provide more treatment and prevention options to warn people of the potential harms of excessive alcohol consumption and that there are ways healthy to cope with, especially if you’re drinking to cope with stress,” Gilbert said.

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UI Director of Student Wellness and Harm Reduction Initiatives Tanya Villhauer coordinates the implementation of UI’s alcohol harm reduction plan and oversees Alcohol Safety Partnership operations.

She wrote in an email to The Iowan Daily that UI has implemented many alcohol prevention measures, such as mandatory training courses for freshmen and students caught drinking on campus.

UI’s Alcohol Harm Reduction (AHR) Plan, first established in 2009 and updated every three years, incorporates a variety of comprehensive, research-based strategies, it said. she writes.

“Fortunately, a great deal of research has been conducted over the years to identify effective strategies for preventing and reducing high-risk alcohol use among college students,” Villhauer wrote. “Some examples include: the use of motivational interviewing and personalized feedback in student wellness consultations for students who are at higher risk for substance use and reducing access and availability of alcohol through policies.”

This kind of comprehensive, evidence-based approach is more effective in solving alcohol-related problems, said Shelly Campo, chair of the Unemployment Insurance Alcohol Harm Reduction Committee.

“The approach needs to be holistic and evidence-based and not just focus on things like educating students about harms,” ​​Campo said. “Not only do you have to address, you know, student knowledge and attitudes, but you also have to think about the community they’re embedded in and the kinds of messages and access that students get.”

Campo said the university had many measures in place to provide students with nighttime activities in addition to drinking. An example is the Campus Activities Council at UI, a student-run organization that plans activities and events such as quiz nights and comedy shows as alternatives to heavy drinking.

“There’s been a lot of focus over the past 10 to 15 years, to ensure there’s a diverse range of late-night downtown experiences and opportunities,” said Field. “The late opening of the leisure buildings was a good thing. A nice contribution was more money from student organization funds available for late night activities.

Student welfare offers consultations on the use of alcohol and other drugs. The agency does not offer treatment for substance use addiction, but can refer to an agency if treatment is needed. Student Wellness also offers a number of programs designed to support students through all stages of their recovery, including the UI Collegiate Recover program.