The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an incredible number of unpredictable circumstances and situations. From increased time spent at home as a result of such factors including job loss, children and young adults being home from school or college, and businesses of all kinds closing, the pandemic created unexpected situations for everyone around the world.
Addiction experts had another concern in mind: the effects on people battling drug addiction. People both in and out of recovery faced immense pressure as the pandemic wore on for months. The massive push for social distancing and stay-at-home orders placed people alone behind closed doors, a bad place for someone with an alcohol or drug problem.
Adults around the country joked about “drinking their way through quarantine.” Alcohol and/or drugs seemed to be the go-to crutch for dealing with the fear and uncertainties surrounding the first few days and weeks of the coronavirus spread. It was nothing more than a joke for most, but it was far more serious for the millions who struggle with substance and alcohol use disorder.
Experts worried about the ways these negative coping mechanisms would play out among those both in and out of active substance abuse. Early numbers looked bleak, and the most recent releases are no less grim. The greater impact of COVID-19 affected far more than those who caught the virus; the response contributed to furthering the opioid epidemic in the United States, too, with overdoses significantly on the rise.
Substance Abuse and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Isolation’s severe effects on mental health were clear from the start. People living in constant worry and stress created a terrible environment for mental wellbeing. Turning to substances seemed like a no-brainer way to quell some of the anxieties. Early statistics showed a sharp spike in alcohol consumption even among the non-addicted population.
Plenty of research exists considering the connections between loneliness and substance dependence. Experts understand that isolation is a serious risk for people who struggle with their alcohol and drug use. Addiction and alcoholism thrive when someone can hide the extent of their use from friends and family who love them.
The stay-at-home orders kept people from spending much time with others, going to the gym, or even getting outside for some fresh air. There wasn’t much people could do to connect. This amplified time behind closed doors made it easier for people to increase their alcohol and/or substance consumption.
Those in recovery couldn’t attend the support meetings they spent months or years building a routine around. The lack of familiar in-person support placed some pressure on their recovery and became a serious challenge. Though Zoom meetings stepped in to fill the gap for some, many had already fallen prey to their fear and uncertainty and turned back to substances.
Others who still couldn’t control their use found it easy to hide from loved ones and continue using. The stay-at-home orders created the “perfect excuse” to keep doing what they were doing without any interruption, but the lack of social connection led to even worse substance use than usual.
Early Pandemic Substance Abuse Statistics
Researchers attempted to create a picture of the problem early in the pandemic. Survey data collected from various studies revealed a general uptick in alcohol use. One report indicated an increase in binge drinking between February and April 2020. The same study showed that 31% of respondents’ drinking increased.
Another early research study from December 2020 indicated that 34.1% of respondents reported binge drinking. 7% from the same study reported extreme binge drinking. It also showed that while 60% reported an increase in their drinking, 13% also reported a decrease in their drinking.
These early studies indicated a cause for concern about the population’s drinking behaviors. At the same time, researchers recognized the limitations of their early reports and indicated the need for more widespread, peer-reviewed research surrounding the issue. These studies will provide a clearer and more comprehensive picture of the problem.
Drug Overdose Deaths in 2020
In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the first official set of numbers for 2020. The results are even more alarming than many anticipated. A record 94,134 people lost their lives to a drug overdose in the United States last year, up more than 30% from 2019.
The country noted a slight decline in the number of past-year overdose deaths at the start of 2020, with drugs claiming the lives of 72,124 people. Experts hoped this was a positive sign and a trend in the right direction after years of the numbers climbing. But the COVID-19 pandemic and all the ensuing fear and anxieties sent the number skyrocketing again.
The exacerbated overdose epidemic in the United States shows there’s still a serious problem throughout the country. Thousands of families are left with the pain of losing their loved ones to another epidemic that doesn’t receive the same attention and push for change as others. The increasing numbers of deaths due to opioids in particular mean there is more work to do.
International Overdose Awareness Day
August 31st marks International Overdose Awareness Day, the largest worldwide campaign to end drug overdoses. It encourages people to remember the lives of people lost and recognize the grief their loved ones live with every day. Increasing public awareness of the growing rates of overdose is a step in the right direction for reversing the problem.
The campaign operates on the message that the tragedy of overdose deaths is preventable and more must be done to save lives before it’s too late. International Overdose Awareness Day serves as a springboard for a conversation about the struggle. Communities, organizations, and governments around the world come together to spread information and commemorate the lives of those lost to overdose.
Addiction Isn’t Always the End of the Road
Lifeskills South Florida is a premier, trusted provider of behavioral health and dual diagnosis treatment services. With the right environment, support, and care, we believe that every person can overcome their struggles and transform their life. Lifeskills South Florida offers treatment plans customized for each individual who comes under our care.
Our facility provides you with an inviting, comfortable setting for recovery. We have both residential and outpatient treatment services to meet the needs of anyone seeking to overcome their struggles with mental health or substance abuse.
Lifeskills South Florida is licensed and accredited by a range of local and national associations and administrations. We’re recognized for the hope and healing we offer to clients in our professional, evidence-based programs. Through a combination of therapy, individual counseling, group sessions, and activities, Lifeskills South Florida provides the best comprehensive care.
If you’d like to learn more about the programs we offer, reach out to us today and speak with an admissions specialist. We’ll answer any questions, explain the services we offer and connect you with the program that’s right for you!