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New Evidence on Substance Use Disorders and COVID-19

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in alcohol and drug substance abuse has been observed across the United States of America.

Unfortunately, a number of the knock-on effects of the pandemic are also catalysts for substance abuse, such as isolation, stress, and severe change.

USA Today recently reported that, despite the increase in demand, many drug treatment programs have shut down due to pandemic-related budget cuts. Many of those left operational have been forced to reduce down to limited services.

Fresh data has also revealed that fatal overdoses in 2020 increased across 40 different US states. Not only this, but a vast array of American cities reported an increase in drug-related 911 calls during the pandemic.

Newly-released research from the Mayo Clinic has revealed that the existing US opioid abuse problem has worsened even further during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, Dr. Tyler Oesterle, addiction expert from Mayo Clinic, revealed: “Folks are under a significant amount of stress. COVID-19 is a stressful time. Individuals are out of work, they’re dealing with you know masks and social isolation, and so they’re unable to get their normal support network up and running. So these types of stressors in isolation we know in addiction lead to more use of an addictive substance because the addictive substance becomes more of a coping strategy for folks.”

This follows reports from Bright Future Recovery and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and San Diego-based Millennium Health which revealed a rise in alcohol and drug use respectively during the pandemic.

Those recovering from substance abuse, especially people in the early stages of recovery, often rely on a community system. This is usually made up of therapy sessions, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, family and friends. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns/social distancing has limited the opportunities for such community systems.

It has also been found that increased stress causes people to turn towards their inner-most cravings. For some that may be crisps and chocolate, but for those recovering from substance abuse detox, it can result in a full-blown relapse. The stress brought about by the pandemic could well be a major contributing factor to the spike in substance abuse seen over the past 12 months.

Finally, severe change can also have a negative impact on substance abuse recovery. The path of recovery revolves around strict routines, which has been well and truly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, thrusting some people into the unknown.

With there still being no end in sight for the pandemic in general, it appears that the issue of substance abuse in the US is only getting worse thanks to COVID-19.

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