BACKGROUND: Before the COVID-19 pandemic, very little was known about the impact of social isolation on individuals' alcohol use and misuse . This study examines how this group of individuals with a history of heavy drinking used alcohol during the pandemic .
METHODS: Data for this study came from an add-on to participants in the Managing Heavy Drinking (MHD) longitudinal study of drivers convicted of DWI conducted in Erie County, New York . Pre-COVID information (October 2019-March 2020) was leveraged with a COVID-19 questionnaire collected between July 2020 and August 2020 . A total of 92 participants completed the COVID-19 survey .
RESULTS: The sample of problem drinkers showed an increase in drinking days but a decrease in the number of drinks after the pandemic outbreak . Those who increased their frequency of drinking included those who, before the outbreak, had received an AUDIT score <8 (26% increase) compared with those who had received a score of 8 or higher (13 %) and those who were not in alcohol treatment (16 %) compared to those who were (10 %); those who after the outbreak, worried about their health (30 %) or finances (37 %), compared with those who did not worry for their health (17 %) or finances (10 %).
CONCLUSIONS: Although overall, the individuals in our sample showed small changes in frequency and heaviness of drinking after the outbreak, this study emphasizes the importance for this group of problem drinkers to receive proper treatment for their addiction.