How Substance Abuse Skyrocketed During the Pandemic and What’s Being Done About It

A sad fact regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, is that substance abuse, including the use of opioids, stimulants, and alcohol has skyrocketed. This has resulted is a serious challenge for clinicians and psychologists who wish to treat patients struggling from drug and alcohol abuse. 

But one of the big problems with combating the abuse is many in-person treatment centers aren’t able to see patients due to pandemic social distancing and/or risk of COVID-19 infection. The problem persists presently with COVID’s many variants.  

But this has given rise to smart solutions like telemedicine and online addiction treatment which uses cutting edge high technology to provide accredited and licensed Partial Hospitalization (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) virtual rehabilitation via the internet. 

But how did the pandemic cause such an outbreak of substance abuse in the first place? According to a recent report, the ongoing fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) of COVID-19 has led directly to an increased in the demand for mental health treatment from U.S. psychologists. 

Conditions such as depression and anxiety are not the only major mental health issues the afflicted are facing. Experts state that abuse of alcohol, stimulants, and opioids are also spiking due to the ongoing fear. Naturally, psychologists are in great demand to help with these potentially deadly issues.  

Making matters worse, those who abuse substances, or who have substance use disorders (SUDs) like an addiction to opioids, are more likely to develop COVID-19 and/or one of its variants, which can come with a higher risk of being hospitalized or even dying. 

Enter the CDC

Back in June of 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stated that 13 percent of Americans admitted to increasing or starting to abuse certain substances as a way of dealing with the stress that’s directly related to the pandemic. 

The amount of overdoses hospitals are seeing have also skyrocketed, the CDC reports. The Overdose Mapping Application Program (ODMAP) reporting system demonstrates that during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, a spike of close to 20 percent in overdoses were reported by hospitals compared to the same months just one year earlier. 

This same trend continued throughout 2020, 2021, and now, into 2022, or so states the American Medical Association (AMA). More than 40 states are said to have realized “increases in opioid-related mortality,” plus lagging concerns over those with substance use disorders.   

Quantity and Frequency of Drug Use

Says a prominent clinical psychologist and researcher at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, there is not only a spike in substance abuse in the U.S. but also an increase in the quantity and frequency of use due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Desperate abusers who no longer have access to their older opioid prescriptions via their physicians are finding illegal substitutes either on the streets or via the dark web. The illegal use of the largely China manufactured synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is currently pouring into the U.S. via Washington D.C.’s “open borders” political policy, is reaching epidemic proportions. 

Users can ingest the fentanyl via marijuana that’s laced with it, and many of them end up overdosing and dying. Curiously, accurate and precise data on the amount of fentanyl being used by Americans is difficult to come by since the government is so hush-hush about it, or so states the deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

Health Care Records

The primary source of data concerning substance abuse comes from health care records. It can take months for medical and health care providers to hand over toxicology reports regarding overdose incidents to the CDC, or so claims a professor of behavioral science, psychiatry, pharmacology, pharmaceutical sciences at the UK Center on Drug and Alcohol Research and the University of Kentucky.  

Accurately tracking substance abuse is also said to be heavily dependent on gong “door-to-door” to conduct surveys. It also can depend on school surveys. These processes have proven very difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic for obvious health risk reasons.  

That said, data on a state-by-state level is easier to come by. For instance, many states have realized a rapid rise in emergency room visits for overdose victims during the near two year duration of the pandemic. Conversely, many states have seen a decline in emergency medical assistance runs for non-opioid and/or stimulant-related issues. 

Says one expert, it truly magnifies the opioid abuse problem when you view it against a backdrop of a decline at hospitals for other, more non substance abuse-related medical conditions and/or accidents.