Substance Use Continues to Rise During Covid-19 Pandemic

Covid-19 has created many challenges and conditions that can contribute to addiction. It has caused stress, uncertainty, financial strain, joblessness, isolation, and other conditions that could trigger problematic use of addictive substances. People, especially those who are prone to addiction, may turn to substances as a way to cope with or escape from these current challenges.

What we are seeing during the pandemic is a rise in alcohol and drug use and abuse. Some people may have started substance use while others have increased their previous use. Let’s take a look at the statistics, the impact of social isolation, how to avoid substance abuse, and treatment options for those who are experiencing it.

Alcohol and Drug Use on The Rise 

It’s still early to have comprehensive statistics on the amount of alcohol and drug use during the pandemic. Nonetheless, there are signs of increased use and abuse. Nielsen found that alcohol sales in stores were 21 percent higher and sales online were 234 percent higher in a 7-week period from March to April 2020 compared to a year before. It should be considered that some of these sales have shifted, as sales in bars and restaurants greatly declined.

A poll by data tech company Morning Consult found an increase in alcohol drinking among a percentage of all generations due to the coronavirus. The increase was seen in 16 percent of all adults, while it breaks down to 25 percent of Millennials, 19 percent of Gen X, and 8 percent of Boomers.

The American Medical Association reported the concerning trend that more than 35 states have seen increased opioid-related mortality during the coronavirus pandemic. This trend is mostly associated with illegal fentanyl and fentanyl analog types of opioids. Data The Washington Post collected from police, hospitals, and ambulance teams found that fatal and non-fatal suspected overdoses increased in the U.S. from last year to this year by 18 percent in March, 29 percent in April, and 42 percent in May.

Effects of Social Isolation During the Pandemic 

Isolation is one of the factors that may contribute to problematic substance use, relapse, and overdose. This can cause many dynamics that may trigger alcohol and drug use.

For example, isolation can remove social support systems that a person previously had. On the other hand, it can cause increased strain on relationships within the home. People can experience stress and uncertainty from the changes to everyday life and restrictions on activities. Also, someone may have access to substances without as many healthy outlets that may have prevented the use. Services such as increased access to alcohol home delivery have made it even easier to drink from home. Some people may increase unhealthy substance use practices, such as drinking alone rather than moderate social drinking.

How To Avoid Substance Abuse During Covid-19

Turning to alcohol or drug use to cope with the coronavirus pandemic will not protect you from infection or help with stressors and problems. Instead, seek out healthy methods of coping. These types of healthy, COVID-19 friendly activities could help you avoid problematic substance use:

  • Nature: Spend time outdoors for physical activity, fresh air, and the mental and emotional benefits of nature.
  • Social Support: Use digital methods like video chatting to have social engagement with friends and family members.
  • Virtual Support Groups: Seek out addiction support groups you can join online.
  • Virtual Individual Counseling: Find a mental health professional who will offer virtual individual counseling, which is prevalent during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Hobbies: Engage in a hobby you used to enjoy or would like to try. Some examples include playing music, writing, woodworking, or doing an arts and crafts project.
  • Nutrition: Increase your intake of healthy foods and reduce unhealthy eating. If you need support, consider a nutrition app or other virtual support.
  • Fitness: Follow an exercise program or increase your physical activity. You can find many fitness programs to follow through YouTube, apps, websites, and other virtual means. 
  • Relaxation: Practice healthy relaxation activities such as meditation, which can include guided meditation or moving meditation.

Virtual Addiction Treatment Programs and Residential Treatment During Covid-19

If you or your loved one needs mental health and addiction treatment during the coronavirus pandemic, you can still get the help you need. You could go for in-person treatment at a residential facility that has effective safety precautions in place, whether it’s an inpatient or outpatient program. Alternatively, there are virtual treatment options available to you.

Riverside Recovery of Tampa provides a virtual intensive outpatient program (IOP). This type of program is ideal for someone who can handle some flexibility in their recovery journey or for those who are ready to move forward to the next step after a medical detox or residential treatment program. Riverside Recovery’s IOP program is tailored to fit the specific needs of you or your loved one.



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Riverside Recovery of Tampa understands all of the emotional challenges of addiction recovery and is here to support you or your loved one. Contact us today for more information.