The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation is vast, especially on health and well-being. Research suggests that alcohol consumption tends to increase during times of duress and uncertainty such as disasters and other traumatic events, and as such alcohol is often misused to cope with stress, anxiety, and other uncomfortable emotions. In addition, the misuse of alcohol to cope with the stress as a result of physical distancing and other policy measures, and a lack of access to supportive social networks and treatment for people with pre-existing alcohol use disorder (AUD) are significant concerns during the pandemic. These outcomes are particularly challenging with respect to COVID-19 because alcohol misuse can interfere with normal immune system function and elevate susceptibility to viral infections of the respiratory system. Alcohol-associated damage to the liver, heart, and other organs may also complicate health outcomes in individuals with COVID-19. These myriad physical and behavioral health outcomes related to alcohol and COVID-19 present a range of urgent research needs and opportunities.
Research is needed to understand the potentially complex relationships between alcohol consumption and COVID-19 related-outcomes to enhance the nation’s response to the current pandemic. The outcomes include overt pathophysiology and the impact of social and policy measures on COVID-19 outcomes. Such studies also will help to lay the groundwork for responding to future public health emergencies. This NOSI encourages applications, in the form of urgent competitive revisions and administrative supplements to existing grants and cooperative agreements, to assess the impact of alcohol as a biological contributor to COVID-19 outcomes, to assess behavioral, social, and economic consequences of the pandemic and to assess the responses that the pandemic has provoked as they relate to alcohol consumption and related outcomes.
NIAAA is encouraging research in the following areas, including those that capitalize on existing research cohorts, to investigate urgent research questions of significance to the COVID-19 pandemic within the general population and among underserved populations, such as racial, ethnic and gender minorities, individuals with low socioeconomic status, and those who are incarcerated or homeless.