Pandemic-related drinking causing spike in need for liver transplants, UNC researcher says

Coronavirus

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Have you been drinking more beer, wine, and cocktails since the start of the pandemic? A lot of people have.

After a year and a half of adding more alcohol to people’s diets, researchers are starting to see the adverse effects.

“Liver transplant listings are up about 50-percent compared to pre-COVID projections,” Dr. Andrew Moon, an assistant professor of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, said.

He’s concerned about the growing number of people waiting for a new liver across the state and the country.

Moon told CBS 17 there’s a 30-percent increase in hospitalizations for people who have alcohol-related Hepatitis and liver problems.

“We need to take this issue very seriously,” he said.

Researchers are trying to figure out what is causing the spike, but they have some ideas.

“In a post-COVID-19 era, increased alcohol use may be contributing to increased severe alcohol-related liver disease, requiring liver transplantation,” Moon said.

Studies have been showing that people purchased and drank more alcohol over the past couple of years, especially during the height of the pandemic.

“From the economic effects of the pandemic, disruptions at work and school, psych-social stressors from the pandemic and shifts in alcohol consumption away from bars and restaurants and toward the home,” Moon said.

He said these liver problems are proving to be quite serious.

“The six-month mortality is about 70-percent,” he said.

Once the damage is done, it’s hard to get a new liver.

“Only about 6-percent (of patients) will end up on the liver transplant list,” Moon said. “We need to ask patients about their alcohol use. The most important treatment is to stop drinking (and) the second most important treatment is to improve nutrition.”

He believes health care workers need to take a more proactive approach to help people prevent more serious health problems.

Moon also told CBS 17 more young women are suffering from alcohol-related liver disease.

It’s something that doctors were seeing before COVID-19, but he said the pandemic has just exacerbated the trend.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Click here for full list of trending stories