The Ritz Herald
© Luca Lorenzelli

Addiction, Substance Use and Recovery During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Published on January 21, 2021

In modern times, there has arguably never been a worse time to find yourself dealing with substance abuse addiction due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the end of 2019, the world has been plunged into a sea of isolation, lockdowns, working from home, social distancing, and more.

Unfortunately, such conditions make it even harder for those dealing with substance abuse and recovery to deal with their problems effectively across the long-term.

During the pandemic, studies found that almost half of all Americans were experiencing negative effects on their mental health (Kaiser Family Foundation) – with there being strong links between substance abuse and mental wellbeing.

Studies from True Life Recovery and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and San Diego-based Millennium Health revealed that the pandemic had also led to a direct rise in alcohol and drug abuse.

In May 2020, a 55% rise in alcohol consumption across a 30-day period was announced, as well as a 36% increase in the use of marijuana and prescription opioids.

Across 75,000 different US urine samples, it was also found that people were 23% more likely to test positive for methamphetamine, as well as rises in positive test likelihood for cocaine (19%), fentanyl (67%), and heroin (33%).

These statistics pointing towards a pandemic-linked rise in substance abuse were reinforced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration hotline numbers back in April 2020. It was revealed that there had been 20,000 texts in a 30-day period and a 1000% increase in the number of received calls.

Talkspace also reported an increase of 65% when it comes to active clients between February and May.

Unfortunately, the spike in substance abuse detox service demand has also put a strain on victim recovery, as funding can only be stretched so far across the US.

Government advice has remained that treatment should continue when possible, despite the huge surge in demand. The United States Federal Substance Abuse And Mental Health Agency claimed back in May 2020 that they had only received 1% of the funding they requested from the US government.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration told those suffering with abuse: “For those with substance use disorders, inpatient/residential treatment has not been shown to be superior to intensive outpatient treatment. Therefore, in these extraordinary times of risk of viral infection, it is recommended that intensive outpatient treatment services be utilized whenever possible.”

Those who are struggling with substance abuse, whether it be a pre-existing issue or something new, should reach out to their health care provider or local treatment center for further guidance and support.