Sudden rise in reported cases of substance abuse
Hospitals have reported a rising number of opioid overdoses across 16 states, reaching up to as high as 54%. Individual drug tests that came out positive on non-prescribed fentanyl and methamphetamine use have also risen up to 32% and 20%, respectively.
Experts have also voiced their concern that travel restrictions may force those struggling with substance abuse to look for a new dealer to satiate their addiction. This can be dangerous because they may be provided with drugs that might possibly result in an overdose. An example of this is when heroin is mixed with a potent dose of fentanyl, which had been the cause of numerous overdose deaths.
Alcohol sales in online stores peaked to a 500% surge in late April, and a survey conducted among 2,200 American adults showed that 16% of them were drinking more during the pandemic. There have also been reports that the percentage of people who engage in binge drinking escalated to 27% just in April. What’s more concerning is that a considerable amount of these numbers are made up of younger adults.
From these figures alone, it’s becoming more apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic has a direct effect on substance abuse, and it’s a dilemma that people in recovery, their families, and healthcare workers are facing every day. Front-liner professionals, in particular, paint a deeply concerning picture of substance abuse, citing that almost 96% of patients suffering from a substance disorder have been extremely affected by the pandemic. Additionally, an alarming increase in relapses has been reported to reach 94%.
Effect of COVID-19 on emotional and mental health
Although it’s highly beneficial to prevent the spread of COVID-19, social distancing protocols have caused an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and isolation since everyone is urged to stay at their homes. A staggering increase in the unemployment rate has also been observed and has increased anxiety among employees who have been let go by their companies.
Unfortunately, if a person in recovery has experienced these during the pandemic, there’s a high risk of falling into relapse. Seeking professional treatment is already made difficult due to social distancing and lockdown protocols, and their increasing anxiety over COVID-19 is making it worse. Turning to substance abuse has become a coping mechanism for some, and this jeopardizes their progress of recovery and may possibly have a more difficult time to achieve sobriety again.
Physical vulnerability of people with substance use disorder to COVID-19
Not only has COVID-19 made people in recovery emotionally and mentally vulnerable, but it may have increased their susceptibility to the virus as well. Studies have found that people with a history of substance use disorders (SUDs) might experience the most adverse health outcomes. Those who had received a diagnosis as recent as last year were most likely to contract the virus.
It’s also important to note that different substances have various adverse effects on the body that can make it more vulnerable to a viral infection. For example, opioids weaken respiration and can lead to slowed breathing. The loss of oxygen in blood puts a person’s cardiac and pulmonary health at a higher risk of experiencing worse symptoms of COVID-19. In fact, opioid users were considered 2.4 times more likely to test positive for the virus, followed by cocaine users (1.6 times) and alcoholics (1.4 times).
Another concern is that of the prejudice that people in recovery who tested positive for COVID-19 might receive. Sadly, the stigma towards people with SUDs is still prevalent in society, making it difficult for them to seek medical treatment and even if they do, there have been cases where they were given substandard care compared to COVID-positive patients with no SUD history or worse, no treatment at all.
The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly one of the worst crises to happen in the modern world that greatly contributed to the rising number of substance abuse, but it doesn’t have to stay this way. In order to prevent the numbers from increasing in the middle of these troubled times, everyone needs to work together and face this challenge with a resolute mind. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, don’t hesitate to reach out to our medical professionals at the Broadway Treatment Center. We will follow the guidelines set by the CDC in order to provide you with the right treatment you need. The pandemic may be a huge hindrance, but your well-being comes first to ensure that your road to recovery is not compromised.