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The Impact of Covid-19 on Addiction

The COVID-19 pandemic has created difficulties for people everywhere. As a result, many have adopted various coping mechanisms.

A 2020 study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that as many as 13% of Americans turned to substance use to handle emotions brought on by the pandemic. At the same time, many public services and medical resources have become less available to those looking for assistance with addiction.

Today, an unprecedented number of Americans are suffering in silence with little idea where to turn for help.

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Increased Stress and Emotional Disturbances

According to the International Labour Organization, approximately 114 million people reported losing their jobs. This figure, however, likely underrepresents the true economic impact of the pandemic. Many workers with unreported income or part-time job loss were never tallied in official statistics.

While an equally staggering number of Americans earned unemployment to pay their bills, the stress of losing a job may still have impacted their overall mental health. Half a year after the beginning of the pandemic, the American Psychological Association reported that psychologists specializing in anxiety-related disorders saw a 74% increase in the number of patients looking for mental health services. Many also reported a concurrent increase in patients needing help with depression and addiction.

Economic Hardship and Coping

Many Americans are still struggling to receive or never received compensation for jobs lost to COVID-19. While families reported the highest levels of economic hardship shortly following the onset of the pandemic, homelessness, poverty, and hardship are still dramatically higher than they have been in recent memory. 

A small but significant percentage of American families have lost enough income that everyday expenses have become difficult to manage. Those with homes or investments have largely turned to downsizing or selling key assets in order to stay afloat. Citizens with a lower economic standing have become dependant on family members or government assistance. 

Because both economic hardship and psychological distress have long been associated with addiction, both overdoses and patients seeking drug and alcohol rehabilitation services have increased significantly in the past two years.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough data currently available to say whether addictive behavior is increasing or declining as later variants of COVID-19 circulate the globe. This information, however, will be important, because it can tell researchers and caretakers whether they have successfully adapted their patient care models to serve substance-addicted patients. 

Aimlessness, Joblessness, and Addiction

Perhaps more than any other time in recent memory, the pandemic has caused Americans to question the nature of their jobs and home lives. Some have been forced to work remotely, only to find that doing their job in isolation is lonely and challenging. Others have realized that their work is unfulfilling and difficult to perform with increased expectations brought about by the pandemic. Thousands have quit jobs voluntarily and thousands more are still looking for work.

Aimlessness and boredom are seldom-discussed consequences of social distancing requirements but are nevertheless important. The stress of being cooped up together with spouses and other family members has almost certainly caused thousands of arguments and breakups.

Though these stressors are difficult to quantify, they certainly reflect a significant source of suffering for many families. Those dissatisfied with their life circumstances may develop addictive behaviors. 

Deaths and Health Consequences 

COVID-19 has directly caused millions of deaths worldwide. Far more people, however, have dealt with declining health, confounding long-term symptoms, and stress-related health problems as a result of exposure to the virus.

Though there are currently few studies that have fully explored the relationship between COVID-19 and addiction deaths, it is already clear that substance abuse deaths have increased over the past two years. The CDC has warned that individuals with histories of substance abuse may be at higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms if they get sick. This risk may be more severe with certain types of substance use.

Whether COVID-19 was directly or indirectly responsible, the CDC has reported that the number of people who died from an overdose in 2020 exceeded the previous year by over 30%. This is the highest figure in recorded U.S. history. 

Reliance on Telemedicine for Addiction and General Medical Concerns

There’s no denying that the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was devastating for many families with one or more members addicted to drugs or alcohol. For many, government-mandated shutdowns cut critical resources or made useful nonprofits difficult to access. There have also been improvements, however, to the infrastructure needed to provide care to post-pandemic patients. 

Telemedicine has recently emerged from a minor service to a major tool for caretakers. While insurance providers were initially skeptical of covering services conducted remotely, it is now commonplace for major insurers to approve remote medical practices.

Though patients addicted to drugs or alcohol are still required to visit clinics for most initial treatments, doctors can now oversee patients’ progress from afar. Patients receiving both acute substance abuse treatment and mental health services, however, now see doctors in person far less often than they have in the past. 

While convenient care is undeniably beneficial, only time will tell how face-to-face care compares with telemedicine for treating addiction. Patients often prefer the freedom of attending appointments at home. Doctors, however, may miss critical signs of relapse, injury, or psychological malady when relying on the limited field of view offered by most video conferencing platforms. 

Finding Addiction Treatment

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

Taking the first step toward recovery is often the hardest when dealing with dependence. Though it can feel harder than ever before, there are hundreds of programs still available to serve you.

Be your own advocate for getting the help you need. If you or a loved one has been struggling with substance use in the aftermath of COVID-19, it may be time to look for a treatment facility. Though it can feel like the world has largely forgotten substance users, National TASC is a network consisting of over 220 substance abuse management programs.

National TASC is experienced in intervening responsibly on addiction cases and working with courts and corrections to foster effective supervisory aftercare. Reach out today.

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