Increased alcohol use driving uptick in hospitalizations for liver disease

Hospitals nationwide have reported a spike in alcohol-related admissions for serious liver disease, reports the Los Angeles Times.

At Los Angeles-based Keck Hospital of USC, admissions for alcoholic liver disease jumped 30 percent last year compared to 2019. Hospitals affiliated with Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine, Boston-based Harvard University and New York City-based Mount Sinai Health System have reported up to 50 percent increases in these admissions since March 2020, specialists at each organization told the publication. 

Many liver disease specialists and psychiatrists said they believe pandemic-related stressors such as isolation and unemployment are causing more people to drink and are fueling the spike in liver disease cases.

"There's been a tremendous influx," Haripriya Maddur, a hepatologist at Northwestern Medicine, told the Los Angeles Times, adding that many of her patients with alcoholism have relapsed during the pandemic and required hospitalization.

Dr. Maddur and other physicians have expressed concerns that the stressors leading to higher alcohol consumption will continue well after lockdowns are lifted. 

"I think we're only on the cusp of this," Dr. Maddur said. "Quarantine is one thing, but the downturn of the economy, that's not going away anytime soon."

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