The COVID-19 pandemic has put entire countries under lockdown and has had a devastating impact on the economy — causing millions of businesses to temporarily shut down and millions of people to lose their jobs. But could there be another, equally disastrous consequence from the coronavirus prevention measures? Could life in quarantine pave the way to increasing addiction rates and growing substance abuse?
There have already been concerns that alcohol and drug abuse might be on the rise amid the boredom and isolation during the life under lockdown, combined with the stress and anxiety caused by the economic crisis, the general uncertainty, and the unemployment. With this in mind, the US-based addiction therapy network, The Recovery Village, has conducted a survey on past-month alcohol and drug use in an effort to understand the impact of the pandemic on substance use.
The results were alarming. More than half of the 1,000 American adults surveyed reported an increase in alcohol consumption, 18% of which reported a significant spike in alcohol use. 36% of respondents said they used more illicit drugs in the past month, such as opioids, cocaine, and prescription stimulants.
New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Connecticut (states that were hit by the virus the hardest) saw the biggest uptick in alcohol consumption — 67%, which is 12% higher than the national average of 55%.
When asked for the reason behind rising substance abuse, 53% said they use drugs and alcohol to handle the stress, 39% said it was to relieve boredom, and another 32% turned to booze and drugs to address mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
Most of the respondents pointed to alcohol as the most frequently-used substance (88%), whereas 37% of respondents said they turned to cannabis to pass the time or cope with stress. Weed was followed by prescription opioids (15%), benzodiazepines, like Xanax (11%), Adderall and other prescription stimulants (10%), and cocaine (9%).
Using drugs and alcohol to deal with the pressures and challenges created by the novel coronavirus could result in long-term addiction or a potential substance use disorder. Limited access to recovery resources could make the situation even worse, The Recovery Village warns. Not to mention possible coronavirus complications that might arise from smoking cannabis.
US consumers have been stockpiling weed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and cannabis sales have skyrocketed in the two months since shelter-in-place orders were implemented. Even if this is good news for cannabis companies and medical weed dispensaries, we can’t help but wonder how far-reaching and catastrophic the secondary effects of COVID-19 will be.
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Written by Ljubica Cvetkovska