Curbing Alcohol Consumption to Ward Off Illness

Seek man at home drinks alcohol

For a brief period, there was a false claim going around on the internet that consuming alcohol kills the coronavirus. This occurred shortly after the first few COVID-19 cases began cropping up in the United States in March. Not only was the claim simply not true, but the opposite is, in fact, true. Excessive alcohol consumption is more likely to make people sick and to increase their odds of contracting COVID-19.

Alcohol Consumption and Coronavirus

Alcohol-based cleaners and detergents can disinfect surfaces and kill COVID-19 germs on those surfaces. There is no doubt about that. But there is a big difference between alcohol-based detergents used for cleaning and the type of alcohol one would drink as a beverage. Drinking alcohol will do nothing to ward off the virus, or any illness for that matter.

One of the big scares with coronavirus is that someone will fall ill and that the COVID-19 germs will move into the lungs and the patient will develop pneumonia. That series of events is what rapidly and severely ramps up the adverse side effects of the virus and also increases the risk for death. According to a 2015 paper published in the Journal of Alcohol Research, excessive alcohol consumption can have, “Adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia.”

It would appear that people should be drinking far less, not more, during this national health crisis, if only because alcohol consumption predisposes people to contract pneumonia and pneumonia-like illnesses.

Alcohol and the Immune System

Nervous system

It’s also worth mentioning that coronavirus and pneumonia are not the only pathogens that one becomes more susceptible to when they drink alcohol to excess. For example, the same researchers who drew a connection between alcohol and immunocompromised pneumonia also found a correlation between drinking to excess and:

  • Acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS)
  • Sepsis
  • Alcoholic liver disease (ALD)
  • Certain cancers
  • A higher incidence of postoperative complications
  • Slower and less complete recovery from infection and physical trauma
  • Poor wound healing

What does all of that indicate? That drinking to excess lowers the immune system and makes it more likely that heavy drinkers will fall prey to illness. Furthermore, heavy drinking also seems to have the effect of reducing the body’s natural ability to heal itself. And that is particularly concerning, because it means that not only will people who drink heavily get sick more often and more easily, but they will have a more difficult time healing and recovering once they do get sick. Drinking to excess is a multi-faceted problem that adds harm and considerable danger, not just with the behavioral risks and difficulties that come with intoxication, but also with the purely biological toxicity of consuming alcohol.

Lastly, another study made a compelling argument for how alcohol consumption increases one’s susceptibility to something as simple as the common cold. Authors Cohen, Tyrrell, Russell, Jarvis, and Smith said that “Both smoking and alcohol consumption are believed to suppress host resistance and thereby increase the risk of upper respiratory infections.”

It would seem that consuming alcohol opens the door to a range of risks. And during a nationwide health crisis, it would be a good idea to abstain from alcohol consumption as much as possible.

The Importance of Alcohol-Free Living

Research suggests that alcohol consumption, even in moderate quantities, can have adverse health effects. Alcohol alters the gastrointestinal system, negatively impacting the function of healthy gut microbes that are linked to the immune system. Furthermore, alcohol consumption can impair immune cells in the lungs. Alcohol can even damage epithelial cells that line the lungs’ surface (coincidentally, those epithelial cells are the same cells that COVID-19 attacks).

Some people may be looking to the bottle to assuage the daily struggle of stay-at-home quarantine and general social distancing. But it is highly recommended that people abstain as much as they can and as often as they can. Downing repeated rounds of alcohol and especially of hard liquor over days or weeks has the potential to suppress immune responses and lead to a higher susceptibility for illnesses. And given the fact that COVID-19 is already a highly contagious illness, Americans should be consuming as little alcohol as possible. The goal should be zero alcohol consumption, particularly during the current health crisis.

Seeking Help for Alcohol Addiction

Help loved one overcome drinking

These are hard times for the American people. In the face of such a public health crisis, some Americans may choose to drink the time away, using alcohol as a coping mechanism for the struggles that they face. If someone you care about is drinking excessively and cannot stop on their own, you must help them get into a treatment center as soon as possible.

By itself, excessive drinking is already very dangerous. About 88,000 people die from alcohol-related health problems every year. It’s one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States.

But the additional factor of the coronavirus pandemic only serves to make matters worse. If you know someone who needs help with a drinking problem, please contact Narconon today. Don’t wait until it is too late.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.