The COVID-19 pandemic first emerged at the end of 2019 and, over a year later, much of the world remains drastically affected by the virus.
As many workplaces were shut down and countries were forced into lockdown, the vast majority of people were asked to start working from home.
Without the socialising that comes with working face-to-face with colleagues every single day, as well as restaurants, gyms, and other meet-and-greet locations shutting down, we have seen a dramatic rise in people turning towards substance abuse.
This likely stems from the mental health problems that arise from being locked away in our homes and a lack of socialising, with around 50% of Americans admitting that the pandemic was having a negative effect on their mental health and wellbeing (Kaiser Family Foundation).
Anchored Recovery reported in May 2020 that there had been a 55% rise in the consumption of alcohol among Americans across a month-long period. Not only this, but 36% also reported an increase in marijuana and prescription opioid use.
The researchers stated: “Experts have already started to voice concerns on the secondary effects America is yet to see from COVID-19, [including] increased rates of addiction afterward due to the stress of isolation, boredom, decreased access to recovery resources and unemployment.”
As a result of these secondary effects, in April 2020, there was a 1000% increase in the number of calls to the Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration hotline, as well as 20,000 texts in that month alone.
The Administration stated: “For those with substance use disorders, inpatient/residential treatment has not been shown to be superior to intensive outpatient treatment. Therefore, in these extraordinary times of risk of viral infection, it is recommended that intensive outpatient treatment services be utilized whenever possible.”
Not only this, but reports reveal that there were around 74,000 deaths due to overdoses between April 2019 and March 2020, up 6,000 from the previous year (NBC).
Drug Policy Alliance researcher, Jules Netherland claimed that “The new CDC data confirms our fears that Covid-19 is exacerbating the already devastating overdose crisis.”
A co-authored study between U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and San Diego-based Millennium Health also revealed that positive drug testing rates had increased during the pandemic. Using 75,000 urine samples, the study found that those taking part were 19% more likely to test positive for cocaine, 67% for fentanyl, 33% for heroin, and 23% for methamphetamine.
While the end to the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet in sight, what remains clear is that there has been a sharp rise in the use of alcohol and drugs during the past 12-month period, a trend that is beginning to have devastating effects on substance abuse across the United States.