Pandemic affects UNM alcohol use disorder treatment study

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Alcohol sales have gone up quite a bit during the pandemic, and a University of New Mexico professor studying how and why particular treatments work for alcohol use disorder says she’s seen that trend first hand. In the spring of 2020, everything shut down, and everyone was asked to stay home.

“Everyone’s been isolated, they feel bored, they feel scared,” said UNM Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Barbara McCrady. That’s why, she says, more people are turning to alcohol as a way to cope. Survey data shows about 60% of people admitted they were drinking more throughout the pandemic, and McCrady says she noticed it in a study of her own, started in 2019.

“We’ve certainly seen people relapsing,” said McCrady. Her research looks at how the brain changes while people in recovery get treatment. “Our goal is to understand more about how the brain changes as people get alcohol treatment,” said McCrady.

McCrady says she hopes the research will allow councilors to treat those struggling with alcohol use disorder more efficiently. But COVID-19 changed the way their study was being conducted and it slowed down their progress, putting them about a year behind schedule. Now they’re looking to pick things back up again and are in need of more participants.

“They get up to twelve sessions of treatment, there’s no cost for the treatment,” said McCrady. She says right now they’re working with 60 people, but their goal is to have 140. Interested participants should contact ABQ Treat at 505-633-8861 or email abqtreat@mrn.org.

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