Substance Abuse Increases Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Substance Abuse During COVID-19

The devastating effects of the Coronavirus pandemic continue to shock us as we watch the statistics rise.  Daily news reports reveal more deaths, lost jobs, business closings, and economic repercussions that stem from this virus.  Unfortunately, the effects will continue to pose threats to society in ways we would not have imagined a few months ago. Among those threats is the potential for increased substance abuse during COVID-19.  

Studies show that people tend to increase their alcohol or drug use during times of stress.  For instance, after the 911 terrorist attacks in 2001, alcohol consumption increased by 25 percent of New Yorkers in the days immediately following the attacks.  The same survey shows that 10 percent of people surveyed reported increased smoking and 3 percent reported increased cannabis use. We should not be surprised to see increased substance abuse during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Why Substance Abusers are at Risk for the Virus

So far, the deaths and illness from COVID-19 appear to be among older individuals who have health issues such as COPD, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions. However, many younger, healthier people have fallen victim as well.  

Other at-risk individuals include cigarette smokers or people who use e-cigarettes.  Because the virus attacks the lungs, people who use these products are particularly vulnerable.  

Also, people who abuse opioids may be more susceptible to the effects of the virus. Opioids slow a person’s breathing, resulting in diminished oxygen in the blood (hypoxemia). If the individual contracts COVID-19, the lungs are unable to withstand more damage.  

Meth abusers may be at high risk of contracting the virus because methamphetamine constricts the blood vessels which in turn causes pulmonary damage.  

Other reasons for the increased risk of contracting COVID-19 among substance abusers include:

  • Limited access to health care.
  • Homelessness or incarceration exposes individuals to close contact with others who are at high risk of spreading infectious diseases.
  • Sharing needles increases their risk of exposure.
  • Lack of housing prevents self-quarantine measures.
  • Weak immune system due to poor nutrition, drug abuse, and poor hygiene.

For these reasons, it is imperative that people with substance abuse disorders not be discriminated against during the virus crisis.

Social Isolation Fuels Substance Abuse

Keeping Americans stuck at home can cause a variety of problems that have the potential to become life-threatening.  For instance, a person who struggles with depression may develop suicidal thoughts during isolation. Substance abusers or addicts may possibly overdose.  A person who has recently exited addiction rehab is at risk of relapse due to the stress surrounding the pandemic. Individuals who were social drinkers could become heavy drinkers in an attempt to cope with the boredom of lockdown.

This is a challenging time for all Americans, but we must resist making the situation worse by using addictive substances as a coping tool.

Booze Sales Spike as People Shelter in Place

It’s no secret, Americans love to be entertained and alcoholic beverages are often included.  But, bars and restaurants are not open now, and people are stockpiling their favorite booze so they can party at home.  Here are some statistics from CNN that will give us an idea of the situation:

  • Since the third week of March, alcoholic beverage sales increased by 55%.
  • Ready-to-drink cocktails rose by 75%.
  • Compared to one year ago, purchases of 24 to 30 packs of beer grew by 90%.
  • Wine sales increased by 66% from one year ago.

These increases are expected to slow down as people are forced to focus on purchasing essentials such as food and medicines if the virus continues for an extended time.

Learn More About Increased Substance Abuse During COVID-19

At Awakenings Rehabilitation, we understand your fears and concerns during this unusual time.  Hopefully, this information helped you understand increased substance abuse during COVID-19. Contact us today if you need help overcoming substance abuse problems. We are always available to assist you.  

Resources: – COVID-19: Potential Implications for Individuals with Substance Use Disorders – COVID-19 – Booze Sales are Booming as People Stockpile Alcohol 


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