Study shows women are drinking more heavily and using more drugs this year

The pandemic has had all sorts of effects. People are driving less, but percentage rates of speeding, driving impaired, or engaging in other risky behavior is higher. Many people are at home with their families more, but they’re experiencing significant loneliness. Reports of domestic violence are on the rise, perhaps driven by economic insecurity and other anxiety.

These effects may be combining to increase alcohol and drug use, especially among women, according to a recent study by Rand. That study, which involved a survey of 1,540 people, revealed that both men and women are spending more time binge drinking than they did last year. (Binge drinking was defined for men as 4+ drinks within two hours and for women as 3+ drinks within two hours.)

On the whole, people are binge drinking 14% more than last year. The rate among women was higher at 17%. Moreover, those who already drank heavily are drinking more heavily, and there has been a 41% increase in alcohol-related problems among women. Those problems include, for example:

  • Feeling ashamed about your alcohol use
  • Doing impulsive things
  • Damaging close relationships and your reputation
  • Using other drugs more often

The study also found that women are using more drugs and, tragically, overdosing more often. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that “during this time, rates of drug overdose deaths increased for those involving synthetic opioids (1,643%), heroin (915%), benzodiazepines (830%), prescription opioids (485%), cocaine (280%), and antidepressants (176%).

The effects of opioids and benzodiazepines on driving

Both prescription opioids and benzodiazepines (“benzos”) carry a “black box” label, meaning that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers them among the riskiest of prescription drugs.

Doctors prescribe benzos for insomnia, anxiety and panic. Common brands include Valium, Xanax and Klonopin. The drugs work on a neurotransmitter called GABA and tend to calm and sedate people. One effect is depressed breathing, which is also caused by opioids. Taking them together can be especially dangerous.

Opioids and benzos both cause cognitive impairment. This means that you could make decisions you wouldn’t otherwise make while using them. When people add alcohol, a disinhibitor, their decision-making could be alarmingly impaired.

Have you been arrested for impaired driving?

As people use more drugs, even prescription drugs, it is more likely they will experience impairment. Increased rates of alcohol use also make it more likely that a person drinking may be impaired.

Don’t panic. An experienced defense attorney may be able to help you limit the damage of a DUI arrest and get any addiction treatment you need.

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