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‘I felt like I needed it to be me’: Health experts worry pandemic has led to increased alcohol abuse

If you’re pouring more pandemic wine and drinking more beer during the pandemic, studies show you’re not alone.But mental health experts are concerned about the new habits formed during the past year and the potential for addiction and spiraling behavior.”People have been home more, more isolated and worried about their jobs and getting sick,” said Hannah Mirmiran, who’s with Omaha Psychotherapy.Mirmiran is concerned about pandemic data that shows alcohol-related hospitalizations increased by 61% over last year, for things like alcohol-related liver disease, according to a USC study. The Journal of the American Medical Association said American adults are drinking 14% more during the pandemic, and binge drinking spiked 41%.”Alcohol is a part of our culture, we use it as a lubricant, to tailgate, to be with our friends and to bond or to loosen up, which isn’t a bad thing. But it’s become so much a part of everyday life for so many people,” said Mirmiran.Mirmiran said many people drink daily or more frequently when they are stressed or depressed. She also said some people can drink and never develop a dependency. So how do you know if your alcohol use is a problem?”If you spend most of your time thinking about drinking or drinking, or recovering from drinking. If whatever you’re doing is creating negative consequences, that’s when you know it’s crossed the line,” she said. Mirmiran, who’s worked with patients in crisis for 15 years, had her own awakening about her alcohol use five years ago. “I went through a hard divorce, which was scary, uncomfortable, new and different so alcohol became a really convenient coping tool for me. I started to feel like I wasn’t myself. I felt like alcohol, I needed it to be me. It was a real lie. I feel like I needed it to be social to be around friends,” said Mirmiran.She now runs her therapy practice with a fresh perspective on alcohol use, avoiding labels like “alcoholic” and encouraging wellness. She and her colleagues offer sober counseling and life coaching for people who think they might be using alcohol in harmful ways, helping them find more positive choices and solutions for anxiety. She said she saw the need for life coaching about five years ago, when patients sought confidential help for addiction or mental health, but didn’t want the treatment reflected in their medical chart or sent through insurance. Practitioners offer both options in her office. She said if you think you’re using alcohol to cope with stress, anxiety or depression, try an experiment and take a break of a week, a month or a year.“To say who am I without alcohol, who am I without substances? And how is my life different without it, I think is really important,” said Mirmiran.Mirmiran has a regular exercise routine, she loves to travel and spend time with her three children.Those struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 24/7 at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or by following the link here.

If you’re pouring more pandemic wine and drinking more beer during the pandemic, studies show you’re not alone.

But mental health experts are concerned about the new habits formed during the past year and the potential for addiction and spiraling behavior.

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“People have been home more, more isolated and worried about their jobs and getting sick,” said Hannah Mirmiran, who’s with Omaha Psychotherapy.

Mirmiran is concerned about pandemic data that shows alcohol-related hospitalizations increased by 61% over last year, for things like alcohol-related liver disease, according to a USC study. The Journal of the American Medical Association said American adults are drinking 14% more during the pandemic, and binge drinking spiked 41%.

“Alcohol is a part of our culture, we use it as a lubricant, to tailgate, to be with our friends and to bond or to loosen up, which isn’t a bad thing. But it’s become so much a part of everyday life for so many people,” said Mirmiran.

Mirmiran said many people drink daily or more frequently when they are stressed or depressed. She also said some people can drink and never develop a dependency. So how do you know if your alcohol use is a problem?

“If you spend most of your time thinking about drinking or drinking, or recovering from drinking. If whatever you’re doing is creating negative consequences, that’s when you know it’s crossed the line,” she said.

Mirmiran, who’s worked with patients in crisis for 15 years, had her own awakening about her alcohol use five years ago.

“I went through a hard divorce, which was scary, uncomfortable, new and different so alcohol became a really convenient coping tool for me. I started to feel like I wasn’t myself. I felt like alcohol, I needed it to be me. It was a real lie. I feel like I needed it to be social to be around friends,” said Mirmiran.

She now runs her therapy practice with a fresh perspective on alcohol use, avoiding labels like “alcoholic” and encouraging wellness. She and her colleagues offer sober counseling and life coaching for people who think they might be using alcohol in harmful ways, helping them find more positive choices and solutions for anxiety.

She said she saw the need for life coaching about five years ago, when patients sought confidential help for addiction or mental health, but didn’t want the treatment reflected in their medical chart or sent through insurance. Practitioners offer both options in her office.

She said if you think you’re using alcohol to cope with stress, anxiety or depression, try an experiment and take a break of a week, a month or a year.

“To say who am I without alcohol, who am I without substances? And how is my life different without it, I think is really important,” said Mirmiran.

Mirmiran has a regular exercise routine, she loves to travel and spend time with her three children.

Those struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 24/7 at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or by following the link here.

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