Alcohol sales have gone up amidst the COVID-19 epidemic and consumption is on the rise.
According to a Fréttablaðið report and sales numbers published by the State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland, ÁTVR, total sales so far this year are about 14% higher than last year, and particularly went up in March and April when the first wave of coronavirus infections was at its highest.
Víðir Sigrúnarson, Chief Physician at Vogur Hospital and Detoxification Clinic, voiced his concern about an increase in daydrinking due to people being stuck at home because of home office or quarantine and is reported saying that he sees the effect in his work at the hospital, with people coming in sicker.
But the alcohol sold at Vínbuðin is not the only one being consumed.
People are also reported drinking sanitzer meant to prevent infection with the coronavirus, which contains more than 80% ethanol and is also (usually) made undrinkable because of its bad taste and integrated soaps that cause nausea.
Curtis P. Snook, a specialist in clinical toxicology at Landspítali, says that, “The main problem is the amount of ethanol with the likelihood of passing out and aspiring vomit.”
Víðir also says that the treatment the patients coming in due to their consumption of sanitizer, recieve the same treatment as other alcoholics, although in addition to increased daydrinking, the effect on the nervous system is much greater. The withdrawal is also much worse and more dangerous.
In addition, the use of opioids has also seen an increase according to Víðir.
“The number of people in maintenance treatment is always increasing, where people are in treatment for harm reduction. There we are trying to prevent people who use drugs from overdosing on other drugs. We now have about 190 people in maintenance treatment, some of them are in harm reduction treatment.”
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