Pandemic-fueled drinking causes wave of alcohol-related liver disease

"More and more, we're seeing young people, as a young as 20 come in, with cirrhosis of the liver from alcohol."

Video Transcript

KATE LARSEN: According to an American Medical Association report, there was a 54% increase in alcohol sales across the US in March 2020 when lockdowns began. Since then, booze sales have continued to boom.

- We're looking at about a 45% increase.

KATE LARSEN: Scott Jeffrey, who was a beer buyer at Mason [? Corbo ?] in San Francisco, doesn't necessarily think that equates to people drinking 45% more. It's that bars and restaurants have been closed. So instead, people drink at home.

- I think some people resort to unhealthy methods of coping.

SAM GEHRET: Instead of going out to the bars, until, like, 2:00 in the morning, I'll just drink every night at my house.

- You don't feel like you're overdoing it?

SAM GEHRET: I mean, yeah, it's a good question.

KATE LARSEN: Well, it's hard to fault people for seeking an outlet during the pandemic. A year later, there are some deeply troubling health impacts that are starting to come to light.

BRIAN LEE: More and more, we're seeing young people as young as 20 come in with cirrhosis of the liver from alcohol, young adults, women, and ethnic minorities. These are the groups that have had the most stress and burden from the pandemic.

KATE LARSEN: Dr. Brian Lee is a hepatologist and liver transplant specialist at the University of Southern California's Keck Hospital. He contributed to a Kaiser Family Foundation study that says across the country, there has been a 30% to 50% increase in hospitalizations due to alcohol associated liver disease. Most of which is cirrhosis, end stage liver scarring.

BRIAN LEE: Liver disease can happen at one drinks per day for women and two drinks per day for men. People with cirrhosis, on average, have a life expectancy of five years.

KATE LARSEN: And Lee says, most people with cirrhosis don't have any symptoms. The only treatments are to quit drinking and a liver transplant. Kate Larsen, ABC 7 News.