The booze ban will only lead to more bored binge drinking, say experts
All that stockpiled liquor just waiting for Saffers to knock back ... and other vices will probably increase as well
South Africans are likely turn to booze, drugs, online gambling and develop sex addictions to beat boredom during lockdown, which enters its sixth day on Wednesday.
The SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependancy (Sanca) has warned that the government-enforced confinement to contain the spread of Covid-19 is likely to lead to a surge in behavioural addictions as South Africans battle to cope with the restrictions, including a ban on the sale of alcohol.
On Friday, thousands of South Africans rushed to liquor outlets to stock up for the lockdown.
“Sanca acknowledges that due to stress and fear of the unseen enemy, in this case the Covid-19 virus, people will turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism to relieve tension and stress.
“Relationships will be tested during this period, as previous problems might escalate, especially issues of gender-based violence and child abuse.
“Other behavioural addictions might also become more prominent during this time and many of our clients at Sanca have cross-addictions, such as a chemical dependency and behavioural addiction, which includes online gaming, sex addictions and online shopping,” said Adrie Vermeulen, Sanca’s national co-ordinator.
With the government banning the sale of alcohol during the lockdown, many South Africans have stockpiled, increasing the chances of binge drinking — consuming an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time.
“Binge drinking is far more dangerous than what people think and this is likely to increase during this time,” said Vermeulen.
Also, if you think you are a “functional alcoholic” or social drinker, this might develop into a severe substance-use disorder.
“Previous patterns of drinking might change to become more frequent and more intense.
“Alcohol poisoning is another concern, as people will be bored, and will overindulge in beverages and test their bodies’ limits.”
Vermeulen said Sanca was also worried about black-market trade.
“We are speculating, but we suspect that the black market trade will find creative ways to deliver illegal substances to consumers.”
Cassey Chambers, operations director of the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), said the body was concerned about those in lockdown with someone who abused alcohol.
The alcohol sales ban was good “as it prevents people from continually buying and drinking, and abusing alcohol during this time”.
“However, people have done stockpiling or panic buying before the lockdown.
“We know one of the risks of alcohol abuse is that with people sitting at home, bored, no purpose to go to work, some have the extra stress of worrying about how they are going to get paid, maybe they have lost their jobs, and this all adds to the stress.
We are speculating, but we suspect that the black market trade will find creative ways to deliver illegal substances to consumers.Adrie Vermeulen
“It is a risk for increased alcohol use and abuse, which also means the potential risk for gender-based violence and assault increasing. So, yes, it is a worry and a concern.”
Sadag’s DSD 24-hour Substance Abuse Helpline (0800 12 13 14) will continue to operate during the lockdown.
Johannesburg resident Usman Aly, who is all for “responsible drinking”, said he did not go “berserk in the bottle store”.
“I don’t binge drink, but I did top up my bar fridge for some weeks, waiting for the inevitable.
“I used to regularly entertain friends at weekends. I stopped socialising from the time the government put out advisories on social distancing.
“As South Africans we are resilient and resourceful enough not to waste a weekend, so, yes, I am well stocked and ready to throw my weight and bar behind the call to stay at home and stay safe.
“I have my golden retriever for company and I am used to drinking with buddies who are overseas on Skype or Squad.
“Claustrophobia should set in when I open the fridge and am down to my last six pack. Beers and braai aside, what really matters now is we reduce the risk of transmission and not overwhelm those fighting on the front lines,” said Aly.