CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Data shows alcohol sales have increased during the pandemic.

Stress, boredom and loneliness may be driving some people to drink.

But excessive alcohol use has health risks – including liver disease, heart problems and accidents. So, how do we know if we’re drinking too much?

“What we usually ask our patients is, at any time in the year have you ever had four drinks, or more, in a day for women; or five drinks or more for men? That, for us, is considered high-risk drinking,” said Akhil Anand, MD, an addiction psychiatrist with Cleveland Clinic.

He said some people drink when they’re stressed, but it’s a myth that alcohol is a stress reliever.

He adds, drinking initially removes inhibitions and may suppress negative emotions in the short-term, but over time, chronic alcohol use can lead to worsening anxiety and mental health issues.

So, when should we be concerned about our drinking habits?

“Do you intend to drink one drink, but you end up drinking more? And if you’re coming to a point where you can’t cut back on drinking and you’re spending a lot of time either recovering from alcohol or thinking about alcohol, these are huge red flags that you should try to address as quickly as possible,” advises Dr. Anand.

If you’re concerned about your drinking, or worried about a loved one’s drinking habits, Dr. Anand encourages reaching out to a medical professional by phone, or virtually.

He said there are also many online resources available to help assess and manage stress and alcohol use.