June 20, 2022 – “Drinking in your house and not leaving is one thing,” said Marisa Silveri, a neuroscientist at McLean Hospital and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “But as people go to bars, as people are driving places, that’s going to impact traffic-related fatalities. Our systems – our physical systems – there’s already been an increase in liver-related deaths, including in alcohol-related cancers.” Silveri is not only analyzing the damage of pandemic-era drinking; the single mom of two young kids admits she, too, experienced the urge to drink more during the height of the pandemic.

“In the beginning, I was going right along with the crowd, couldn’t wait to have glass of wine while making dinner, trying to assume some normalcy in our day-to-day, reduce my stress, the kids’ stress going about the world,” said Silveri, director of McLean’s Neurodevelopmental Laboratory on Addictions and Mental Health. “And at some point, there was a switch, not because drinking became problematic, but because I had so many demands. I had to wake up and put my feet on the floor, keep going, get my children to virtual school.”

Silveri said researchers have found different groups of people are affected by pandemic alcohol use in various ways depending on their roles and challenges. But stress and isolation have been consistent factors, she said.