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Reasons Why The Pandemic May Increase The Risk Of Substance Abuse


The pandemic brought it with financial, emotional, and all kinds of strains. So many people lost their jobs and had trouble paying rent for months on end. This kind of multi-faced stress brought on an outbreak of alcoholism as a way to cope with stress. This has led to a new kind of dependence on substances; particularly alcohol that is now intensifying. Today we are gonna go into a few reasons why the pandemic may increase the risk of substance abuse and how to deal with it.


To Cope With Stress

Using alcohol as a way to cope with mounting stress during the pandemic is a slippery slope that can lead to an alcohol use disorder. Particularly teens and young adults are more inclined to abuse alcohol during these tough times.


Typical symptoms of addiction related to alcohol are - compulsive drinking, withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and shaky hands, difficulty maintaining relationships, financial trouble, and trouble with job and health.


To Relieve Loneliness

The pandemic has taken a major toll on people who were lonely/living alone. The trouble multiplied for those with opioid use disorder. The disorder is more common with people who suffered from some chronic pain condition.


Since these people were living alone, there was no one around to call for emergency help or administer timely medication to minimize the damage of overdose. We all know that loneliness can be particularly difficult to deal with. While resorting to substance may offer temporary relief; the pandemic created the perfect condition for this temporary relief to turn into full-blown addiction and substance abuse.



To cope with mental health issues like anxiety or depression.

The CDC conducted a survey in late June 2020. The results of the survey were revealed in mid-August. The results were astounding as they offered insight into just how damaging and serious the emotional/psychological impact of the pandemic has been for the average American.


The survey revealed that during the pandemic, the reports of anxiety disorder increased 3 times than those which were reported during the second quarter of 2019. The reports of depressive disorder grew around four times more than those which were reported during the second quarter of 2019.


The report by CDC further said that about 13.3% of participants reported an increase in substance abuse including alcohol and drug usage.


Possible Treatments And How To Address Addiction


This is usually the first step when treating substance abuse. This includes cutting-off the substance, removing the substance from the body, and using medications to limit the severity of withdrawal symptoms.


According to SAMHSA, in almost 80% of the cases involving substance abuse treatment, the professionals will use medication to manage withdrawal symptoms. Multiple medications may be needed if the person was using multiple substances.


Treatment with Medication

Medication is super important when it comes to long-term and sustainable recovery from most drug dependencies. It works even better in conjunction with behavioral therapies. Certain medications help in improving mood, keeping addictive behavior in check, and also reducing cravings which can be difficult to curb without medication and professional help.


Two common medications used for helping with addictive behaviors are - acamprosate and lofexidine. The latter recently got approval from the FDA.


Inpatient Rehab Centers

These centers make the patient stay for a specific duration of treatment. They follow a structured protocol and treatment program that addresses all aspects of life that are causing a person’s addiction. By residing in this substance-free facility, patients receive 24/7 support and care.


Rehab centers are best for those with chronic addiction, behavioral disorders, and/or co-occurring disorders. It’s hard to tell the current situation of most rehab centers owing to the ongoing pandemic situation; so you may have to explore alternative treatment options. 


Sober Living Homes

You can think of sober living homes as the bridge or the layover between staying at a rehab/inpatient center and the return back to normal life. By serving as the middle road, a sober living home gives people enough time to reinforce and practice whatever they learned at a rehab center. It gives them time and space to strengthen newly developed healthy habits but in a rather comfortable and structured environment.


Counseling and Behavioral Therapies

Addiction is a complex disease that involves several layers of mind and psychology. That’s what behavioral therapies and counseling sessions help to address. They work on fixing bad attitudes and negative behavioral patterns that might be triggering or strengthening the addiction. They also aim to identify the behavioral characteristic of the addiction and the root cause of it.


It further aims to strengthen life skills along with other supporting treatments so the person can stay sober even after the treatment is over and doesn’t succumb to cravings during hard times.


Self-help Groups

NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are two best examples of self-help groups that aim to bring together individuals struggling with substance abuse and/or undergoing treatment for it. It aims to provide them a safe space to bond, interact, and share their struggle and success stories.


A sense of community that these self-help groups eradicate the sense of isolation. Their goal is to offer education, information, community, and boost the motivation of all the participants. You can find out about one such group either via an internet search or you can ask your doctor/nurse.


Bottom Line

Disorders related to substance abuse must not be ignored or taken lightly. Thinking that you can overcome this dependency on your own is often a mistake. Because these disorders are complex and chronic, intensive treatment with proper investigation must be given. The course of treatment including the kind of medications and the length of it will vary based on the severity and complexity of the addiction.



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