LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Isolation and depression are causing more young people to drink excessively during the pandemic, resulting in severe liver disease, and increasing the need for treatment and even liver transplants at Kentucky hospitals.
Henry Lucas, a therapist with Louisville Health and Healing, pointed to three main factors that are fueling this trend: anonymity, availability, and accessibility.
Lucas offered advice to prevent young people from embarking on the road to substance abuse. He stressed the importance of parents paying attention to potential signs of alcohol and drug abuse before life-long habits start.
"I do know that the National Institute on Drug Abuse says that, if you can prevent alcohol and drug use at least until they are adults, that they are eight times less likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol once they are an adult," Lucas said.
Since the pandemic began, UofL Health has seen about a 50% increase in liver disease. Dr. Loretta Jophlin, a hepatologist and gastroenterologist at UofL Health, said the increase is drastic.
"We are seeing a drastic increase in individuals who have certain forms of liver disease and we are seeing increases in younger individuals, particularly women, who have an acute onset of liver failure secondary to very heavy drinking," Jophlin said.
Jophlin said liver disease starts slowly and silently until things become severe.
"It might be loss of appetite, vomiting, and the skin might start to turn yellow, or it might not. Severe fatigue and generalized desire to not eat or drink alcohol anymore, those tend to be signs the liver is having a hard time progressing the toxins coming into the body," Jophlin said.
And the best advice if you are a young adult who may be struggling?
"Take days off where you are not drinking. Go periods where you aren't drinking, but suddenly stopping might be dangerous if you are drinking heavily. You may need to reach out to your doctor about detoxification for alcohol if it is a chronic problem," Dr. Jophlin said.
For those seeking help, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is currently meeting in person and via Zoom to offer support.