As alcohol sales increase, some doctors concerned about isolation as trigger for addicts

According to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, total sales at ABC stores in the Commonwealth are up 59 percent year-to-year, which has some doctors concerned about increased drinking during a pandemic becoming a trigger for addicts or those in recovery.

ABC officials say the year-to-year increase is based on sales from state stores between March 15 and March 21. The region seeing the largest sales increase was Northern Virginia.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in the District, Maryland and Virginia

But the demand for alcohol is not unique to Virginia. Stores in Maryland have seen long lines and the District has allowed to-go sales of alcohol for restaurants and bars also selling food.

"It's been like Thanksgiving and Christmas for us in here. That's how busy we have been. Unbelievable numbers," said Suzanne Lewis, owner of Ballenger Beer & Spirits in Frederick, Maryland.

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Dr. Charles Samenow, an associate professor of psychiatry at George Washington University, says increased drinking and the isolation people are experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic could become a trigger.

"For those people that are in recovery, whether it be early recovery or recovery that is fragile there are a lot of triggers. Not only from the disease but then seeing some of the main ways people are coping through these online happy hours and drinking, it really puts a risk for relapse," said Dr. Samenow.

Dr. Samenow says most medical professionals would not discourage moderate and responsible drinking, but a red flag that increased drinking is becoming a problem in family or friends is when it seems drinking is controlling that person's life.

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Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, many treatment options remain.

Recovery centers remain open as medical facilities and are taking precautions and Alcoholics Anonymous groups can be found virtually on the AA websites for areas across the country.