Survey: Alcohol and Drug Use Increase During COVID-19 Pandemic

Thecoronavirus pandemic has affected millions of Americans who have sufferedhardships over the past several months. Some have lost their jobs and othersare working from home while balancing their children’s virtual education. Asthe quarantine has progressed, many are missing the normalcy of socialgatherings and other activities outside the home.

Septemberis National Recovery Month, which aims toeducate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services canenable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy andrewarding lives.

Mentalhealth experts have been warning about the psychological effect the pandemicmay have on many Americans. The economic stress, coupled with the anxiety anddepression brought on by being home alone, could have a lasting impact. Somehealthcare professionals are worried these factors may also contribute to anincrease in addiction to alcohol and other substances. A recent study ispointing to exactly that.

The Recovery Village® recently conducted a survey on past-month drug and alcohol use to better understand how the pandemic is currently affecting substance use in the United States.

Resultsof The Recovery Village® Survey

Thesurvey asked 1,000 American adults (ages 18 and older) about their use of drugsand alcohol in the past month. Some questions asked respondents to select eachoption that applied, so in a few instances, the total percentage will begreater than one hundred.

Thesurvey respondents most commonly used:

  • Alcohol (88%)
  • Marijuana (37%)
  • Prescription opioids (15%)
  • Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax (11%)
  • Prescription stimulants, such as Adderall (10%)
  • Cocaine (9%)

Additionally,many respondents displayed higher rates of drug and alcohol use. Of therespondents:

  • 55% reported an increase in past-month alcoholconsumption, with 18% reporting a significant increase
  • 36% reported an increase in illicit drug use

Inthe states hardest hit by the coronavirus (NY, NJ, MA, RI, CT), 67% reported anincrease in past-month alcohol consumption, with 25% reporting a significantincrease

Theparticipants were asked why they were prompted to use substances within thelast month. Of the respondents:

  • 53% were trying to cope with stress
  • 39% were trying to relieve boredom
  • 32% were trying to cope with mental health symptoms,such as anxiety or depression

Survey Courtesy: The Recovery Village®

Whatthe Results Mean

“Our numbers are increasing–new patients with issues with alcohol use and established patients with a resurgence of their alcohol use,” says Rachel V.F. Rohaidy, M.D., a Baptist Health psychiatrist and medical director at The Recovery Village Miami at Baptist Health, who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental, addictive and emotional disorders. She added, “I think that technology has played a part in the ease of accessing alcohol as we are now able to have things delivered to us and packaged for us for pickup.” 

Theresults of the survey are concerning. Once people turn to drugs and alcohol,there is concern that it can turn into a substance use disorder, which cansometimes come with co-occurring mental health disorders.

Dr.Rohaidy offers these tips to help reduce the stress brought on by the pandemic:

  • Setting limits would be at the top of mylist. For example, setting strict time constraints for work or school, and notallowing those activities to blend into family time.
  • Limiting exposure to social media and newsreporting. If you must watch the news, then set a specific time and only aspecific channel. Don’t inundate yourself as it will only add to the stress.
  • With the help of free and accessibleonline webinars — such as ones from events.baptisthealth.net— it is now easy to incorporate exercise, meditation and healthy living intoour daily lives.
  • 30 minutes a day of walking to get theheart rate up slightly is all we need, three to four times a week.
  • Staying hydrated can help with appetiteand snacking, remembering to maintain healthy family goals.
  • Set dinner time every night for the family.Include rules such as no devices or reading materials at the dinner table. Talkabout what is worrying everyone. Including children is an important part asthey too are likely feeling stressed. 
  • Start a new hobby or revive an old one.This is a great time for creativity. This will help with stress relief andpositive thinking. Having a hobby can help you to feel part of a social groupand will help you to feel much less isolated. Knitting, crochet, painting,ceramics, maybe a DIY home renovation project. 

Ifyou or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse and co-occurringmental health concerns, The Recovery Villageat Baptist Healthcan help. The first step is to contact a compassionate intakecoordinator, many of whom arein recovery themselves, to learn more about addiction, treatment options andthe recovery process.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 13 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.