A coronavirus ethos can help with alcohol

The challenge of changing our behaviour to slow the spread of coronavirus offers valuable clues about how we all might help reduce the harms of alcohol.

There are those aspects of coronavirus aware behaviour adults must master alone, like washing our hands or the remarkably challenging feat of not touching our faces.

But the most difficult ones for coronavirus are the social ones: turning down invitations, spurning warm hugs, gleeful handshakes, high-fives and knuckle-bumps.

Reducing alcohol use can be a personal struggle too, with the urge to use it to sooth ourselves or lift our mood often heightened by withdrawal symptoms. But the social aspects are even harder to halt.

We might need to pooh-pooh a pub visit, if the environment is hard for us. We might need to say no to a drink or, maybe, explain our choices to people doing exactly the opposite.

It is awkward and difficult, all of it, particularly to begin with, but it is possible. We may miss our old habits, but we can grow fond of alternatives which serve the same purpose.

We can see why invitations have to be declined. And we can learn to greet one with namaste, or foot-bump, bow or alcohol-free beer, or whatever other hygienic greeting we can devise.

In both cases we are adaptable creatures able to combine science, flexibility, imagination and empathy to reduce the harm we do ourselves and to others.