According to the American Psychological Association, the ongoing stress and emotional toll that the pandemic has created is leading to more Americans facing anxiety and depression. However, these are not the only mental health issues on the rise as a result of COVID-19. Many experts say that the misuse of opioids and stimulants is also increasing as a result.
In addition to the regular risks that come with substance misuse, people with substance use disorders (SUD) are more likely to develop COVID-19 as well as experience worse symptoms, including a higher risk of hospitalization and mortality.
With this in mind, just how impactful has the pandemic been?
According to the CDC, 13% of Americans started or increased their substance use as of Jun 2020. ODMAP showed that during the early months of the pandemic, nationwide overdoses increased by 18% compared to what it was in 2019. This trend has sustained itself through 2020 as more than 40 states have seen increases in opioid-related and concerns with those who have substance use disorders.
Is COVID-19 the Only Factor at Play?
According to the medical examiner of Virginia, drug related mortality is slowly increasing every year. However, in 2020, during some 3-month reporting periods, such as during the months of April to June, it nearly doubled: from an average of 370 to 647.
While there are many factors that contribute to drug related mortality, such as availability, it’s clear that the pandemic is having a large, negative impact on many people across the state and country.
With stress levels increasing (and fewer ways to manage it, like physical activity and social interactions), it’s clear that more people are turning to drugs to find relief: but this presents an even greater risk than normal as using when alone or in isolation increases the risk greatly.
It’s more important now than ever for people to access the care they need during these challenging times.
The Increased Prevalence of Telemedicine
The increased availability of telemedicine has made it easier for people to access care for substance use disorders, and for some, overcome the stigma attached to it. With telemedicine becoming more popularized and available for behavioral health, it can help many take the first step to getting on the path to recovery – especially as insurers have lifted previous restrictions on it for behavioral health, including substance use disorders. That’s not all though – with more access to telehealth, remote mental care is also beneficial for those who seek mental health care.
In short, a lot of clinicians are reporting more patients showing up for appointments due to the increasing use of telehealth. IHAT encourages the use of telehealth and you can find more on our telehealth page.
Taking the First Steps
Recovering from opioid, drug, and alcohol use can be a difficult challenge, especially during a global pandemic which has temporarily forced us to live our lives in a different way. Medical treatment is the first step to preventing the long-term impact of opioid use, including overdose. Combined with other treatments like CBT, people are better able to respond in healthy ways to the stressors that led to opioid and other usage in the first place.
To learn more about what IHAT does and how we may be able to help you, a family member, or a friend in need, please visit our Medication Assisted Treatment page or contact us.