In the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, it has become easier to buy alcohol than toilet paper or eggs.
Across the U.S., governors are terming alcohol sales an essential business and loosening restrictions to permit home delivery and carryout cocktails, throwing an economic lifeline to one group of small businesses.
Are alcohol sales actually essential? According to the federal government, just over half of Americans age 18 and above (55.3%) drank alcohol in the past 30 days; just over a quarter binged – more than four drinks on an occasion for women, or five for men – and 1 in 17 (5.8%) had an alcohol use disorder, ranging from mild to severe.
For those in this latter group who are actually dependent on it, alcohol may indeed be essential.
But evidence thus far in the epidemic is that people in general are buying more alcohol, and in larger quantities. As someone who has spent 30 years studying the link between alcohol policy and public health, I know that this is likely to result in a spike in alcohol use disorders for years to come.