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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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As Economy Goes Down, Drinking Goes Up

Study Shows an Increase in Alcohol Abuse During an Economic Recession

Stress and Worry During Bad Economy

"Even if you have a job, you may be concerned about losing it or maybe you are worried about other family members who are at risk for losing a job," he says.

We are talking about the high-functioning alcohol abuser here, says addiction specialist Paul Leslie Hokemeyer, PhD. He works at the Caron Treatment Center's New York City office.

"From the outside, their lives look perfect," he says. "They have a job, two cars, own a house, and have kids in private schools, but they are being eaten up by a sense of anxiety and helplessness."

"People who do have jobs may keep it together and go to work during the week, but then on the weekend, they start drinking and they can't stop," he says.

Many people do use alcohol to ease their anxiety -- and a bad economy definitely fuels anxiety.

"They think, 'Everything is falling apart, so screw it, I am going to drink,'" he says.

There are healthier ways to deal with stress and anxiety. Addiction and problem drinking thrive in isolation, he says. "Bring other people into your lives and talk about what is happening."

Henry Wechsler, PhD, has made a career out of studying drinking habits and patterns. He is a lecturer in the department of society, human development, and health at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and the former director of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study.

A recession "may indicate less available money to buy alcohol," he says in an email. "The downturn brings with it increased unemployment or fewer hours of employment, and may indicate more available time to drink and fewer competing activities with drinking."

There are many risks associated with increased alcohol consumption, he says. "They include major ones: violence, vandalism, sexually transmitted diseases through unprotected sex, automobile collisions, and self-inflicted injuries."

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