marijuana and alcohol use rise during COVID-19

Marijuana and Alcohol Use Rise During COVID-19

by Pat Fontana

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been a distressing experience for virtually everyone in the country. Between fears of the virus itself, stresses over job losses and financial difficulties, and the isolation enforced by orders to stay at home and maintain social distances, the challenges can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, many people tend to self-medicate through these negative experiences, which may help to explain the marijuana and alcohol use rise during COVID-19.

Recognizing the Problem

The trauma you experience during the outbreak can leave you vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During National PTSD Awareness Month, it is important to be able to recognize the problems that arise through attempts at self-medication with drugs or alcohol. Beyond the issues with substance abuse itself, increased use of drugs such as marijuana and opioids can leave you more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus.

If you use opioids or methamphetamines, or if you smoke or vape, you are more susceptible to some of the worst outcomes associated with the virus. Since COVID-19 attacks the lungs, you significantly weaken your defenses by continuing to use and abuse drugs during the pandemic.

Marijuana and Alcohol Use Rise

In a recent survey conducted of 1,000 American adults, 36% of those responding reported an increased use of marijuana and prescription opioids in the past month. In addition, 88% of the survey participants said they had been drinking alcohol in the past month. 37% reported using marijuana and 15% said they used prescription opioids.

In states that have been hit hardest by COVID-19, including New York and New Jersey, survey respondents reported a 67% increase in their alcohol consumption in the past month. Drug use included benzodiazepines, such as anti-anxiety medication Xanax, as well as Adderall and similar prescription stimulants, and cocaine. Boredom, isolation, and anxiety all contributed to the increase.

A separate survey was conducted in mid-April of 12,895 verified professionals, employees working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 41.76% of the survey participants responded that they drink while on the clock and working from home. Their increase in alcohol use may be attributed to increased fears about company layoffs as well as the stresses of balancing the new stresses of childcare, home schooling, and working while staying at home.

Drug and Alcohol Use Increases Risk

Beyond the vulnerability to increased lung damage and related coronavirus issues, the marijuana and alcohol use rise during COVID-19 has led to other health problems among those with substance use disorders. Sammy Saab, MD, a clinician at UCLA, says health professionals are seeing an increase in alcohol-related problems, including a deterioration in liver function.

Dr. Saab says, “People who are isolated are drinking more. We see them coming to the hospital with significant liver damage from alcohol, all related to the isolation that’s required to combat the coronavirus.” In some of those cases, the patients had an existing chronic underlying drinking problem. As Dr. Saab explains, “They’ve been drinking for years, but more reasonably, and now the pandemic has tipped them over the edge.”

The Need for Continued Support

The marijuana and alcohol use rise during COVID-19 can also be attributed to decreased access to recovery resources. Nora D. Volkow, MD, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), speaking at an American Psychiatric Association (APA) meeting this spring, noted that other challenges are also prevalent during the coronavirus crisis. Increased stress, stigma, and access to medications, has combined with limited access to support group meetings and other sources of social connection, resulting in the increased numbers.

Many treatment programs as well as national support groups have gone virtual to accommodate those in need of support during the coronavirus outbreak. Treatment services, including those at South Miami Recovery, are now available via telehealth. HIPAA-compliant telehealth enables you to continue to get help with your substance use disorder, while staying safe and healthy at home. It is important to reach out to get help with addiction treatment, rather than turning to increased use of drugs and alcohol, especially during this stressful time.

Contact South Miami Recovery for Help During COVID-19

Getting help when you are experiencing the traumatic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is critical to your successful recovery from substance use disorder. South Miami Recovery offers HIPAA-compliant telehealth services so you can get the treatment you need now. We continue to provide a wide array of outpatient addiction treatment services to those who need it most during these uncertain times. To learn more and to sign up for telehealth substance abuse services, contact us today. Call South Miami Recovery at 305.661.0055.