VISAKHAPATNAM: Covid-19 is known to cause severe health complications in people with co-morbidities. And when a person regularly consumes alcohol and tobacco, the consequences can be dire, is what experts believe. Abstinence from alcohol was one of the behavioural changes seen in many people during the lockdown.
With stress acting as a predominant trigger, the abstinence slowly turns into a relapse. Speaking to The New Indian Express, Dr M Vamshi Krishna, a consulting pulmonologist with Seven Hills Hospital said, “People who consume alcohol or tobacco are at high-risk. A relapse in alcohol consumption post-Covid is seen in many patients.”
He further explained excessive alcohol consumption damages epithelial cells that line the surface of lungs, and can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)—a condition in which fluid fills up air sacs in the lungs affecting oxygen supply to the body.
“An already compromised immune system, coupled with increased susceptibility to respiratory illness, could ultimately contribute to severity even after recovery.”
Dr P Prabhakar Varma, assistant professor (community medicine), GITAM Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Visakhapatnam, said: “Recovery takes longer than usual in Covid patients who consume alcohol or tobacco; they need close monitoring. However, there is no need to treat them in separate Covid wards as it may cause a negative psychological impact and further deteriorate their health.”
Meanwhile, Dr Bhavani, a clinical psychologist, said there are numerous misconceptions attached to alcohol consumption and Covid-19. “Many are of the belief that alcohol consumption can protect them from the virus. For their information, high-strength ethyl alcohol (ethanol), used in sanitiser, is used as a disinfectant and works on skin. No alcohol can ever disinfect your internal organs. Moreover, its consumption leads to higher risk of mortality.”
“Having a drink is an immediate but illusive fix. Alcohol affects how the brain and central nervous system function in the long run. It takes a toll on mental health.”
Smoking should not be seen as a coping mechanism. It, in fact, is an alteration to physiological mechanism of oxygen absorption by Red Blood Cells, Dr Ashish Chauhan, a consultation physician with Apollo Hospitals, said and warned, “A single cigarette can takes away 11 minutes out of a person’s lifespan. And smoking always poses the risk of oral, lung and bladder cancers.”
Not only regular consumption, but also sudden cessation of alcohol and smoking can lead to delirium due to the withdrawal symptoms. It’s quite a difficult task to overcome these triggers in the first place, given the stay put situations, the doctors believe.
Dr Bhavani said: “Relapse triggers, slip-ups, and withdrawal symptoms while recovering can be managed by making healthy lifestyle changes such as regular breathing exercises, nutritious diet, adequate sleep, proper hydration, going for a walk, meditation and adding healthy alternatives to diet.”
She suggested therapy can help a person to develop healthy coping mechanisms so as to deal with stress during Covid-19.