Alcohol & COVID-19

Advice for heavy drinkers who are thinking about cutting back or stopping drinking alcohol


This advice is intended to help you understand your drinking levels and avoid any serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms, should you plan to reduce or stop your drinking in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We want to help you cut back in a planned way in order to improve your health in the short and long term.

It is important that you know that both the risks of continuing a high level of drinking and of harms from cutting back are higher, the more heavily you drink. If there are alcohol support services available and you are planning to reduce your drinking, you should use these, particularly if you are drinking over 30 units per day, which is around a bottle of spirits, 3 bottles of wine, 7 cans of strong lager (7.5% or more) or 4 litres of white cider. Withdrawal symptoms and complications are more likely at this very high level of consumption.

The support available from NHS and other services to help with alcohol detox and reduction for people who wish to do this will be reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, though some services will be able to provide telephone and online advice. There is further information at the end of this guidance.

This advice is to help you, your families and friends self-manage alcohol reduction and/or withdrawal as safely as possible. If you are on your own with children, you will need extra support. If possible, you should speak to any professional who is supporting your family and get advice from your local addiction service before you start to cut down.

Read the advice


Coronavirus (COVID-19) and People with Alcohol-related Problems: Recommendations for Services


This guidance has been drawn up by Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), at the request of the Scottish Government. It provides recommendations for Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs), Commissioners, Alcohol Service Managers, Community Services and Mutual Aid and Support Groups, to enable them to reduce risks and ensure continued support for people with alcohol-related problems in the context of COVID-19.

Section five suggests advice that can be offered to heavy drinkers who are thinking about cutting back or stopping drinking alcohol in the current circumstances.

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving pandemic with national advice and guidance updated regularly. This document is accurate at point of publication. It will be reviewed as necessary, with updates being issued as and when required. This guidance is intended to support and not to contradict or replicate any local contingency plans that are in place.

Read the guidance


Understanding Alcohol in the Pandemic - Blog

By Dr Peter Rice, Steering Group Chair, SHAAP. August 2020.

In the third week of March 2020 I went to the supermarket at the height of the pasta, paracetamol and toilet paper rush.

In front of me were a couple of men in their early 30s. They seemed unfamiliar with the checkout routine. They had a trolley of what looked like a big family shop. The checkout operator took back two of the four boxes of muesli explaining there was a limit of two items per customer. The customers pointed to their six or so bottles of wine and said “But cereal is healthy, wine is not.” The operator agreed it was illogical, but those were the rules and alcohol wasn’t part of the restriction. They shrugged and got on with their day. The man behind me in the queue was buying several litres of vodka (and nothing else).

Read on...