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Why Substance Use Has Increased Since COVID-19

The addiction epidemic was already a significant problem in the United States, but COVID-19 has only worsened it. Consider that there were more than 90,000 drug overdoses in the U.S. in the first year of the pandemic, an increase of nearly 30 percent from the year before. 

Let’s explore why, in fact, the pandemic has led to higher substance use rates. 

The Relationship Between the Pandemic and Substance Use 

COVID-19 didn’t just affect people with pre-existing substance use problems. It impacted everyone, including those who didn’t normally drink or use drugs. According to a report from the Overdose Detection Mapping Program, more than 40 states have shown higher numbers of opioid-related fatalities since March 2020. The report also revealed an increase in overdoses during stay-at-home orders. 

Below are some of the key reasons why the pandemic has led to an increase in substance use and overdose deaths.

Means of coping with stress or fear. 

The pandemic has brought much uncertainty into our lives, even today. The stress and fear of getting sick, dying or losing a loved one caused many people to experience intense emotions. And, social media only made things worse by consuming people in fear. There was no escape. 

As a way to deal with these powerful emotions, some people turned to drugs or alcohol to cope. Plus, there were fewer ways to deal with stress since resilience-promoting activities like sports and social interactions were no longer safe to participate in. This caused some people to use drugs and alcohol more often or in greater amounts. 

Working from home. 

According to a study from, about 1 in 3 Americans drank alcohol while working from home during the COVID-19 lockdown. About 32 percent said they were more likely to drink during work hours at home as opposed to working somewhere else. And 36 percent of men and 26 percent of women surveyed said that they were drinking around the clock. 

Working at home increases drinking for several reasons. First, some companies held virtual happy hours to keep employees engaged, but it could have sent the wrong message. Second, employees were able to drink without their employers knowing. 

More time spent alone. 

Spending time alone can also be a motivator to drink or use drugs more often. There are two reasons for this. First, loneliness and social isolation can lead to depression, which can trigger people to self-medicate. Second, having more time alone can lead to boredom. Boredom is a common trigger for people since they’re left alone with their thoughts. 

Decreased access to treatment services. 

Fortunately, this is not the case anymore. But at the height of the pandemic, it was harder to access treatment services and emergency services. Therefore, this led to more people delaying treatment or not getting the help they needed, raising overdose deaths and addictions. 

Get Help for a Substance Use Problem Post-COVID

The pandemic has had a significant impact on addiction. Unfortunately, addiction is a progressive brain disease that requires detox, therapy, and aftercare. For those who are still struggling with addiction, dual diagnosis rehab in California is available.

Awakenings Treatment Center offers a wide range of treatment services, including post-COVID-19 treatment. We recognize that the pandemic has had a major impact on many people, and we are here to help. Contact us today to learn more.