Why has the coronavirus pandemic driven addiction cases?
Let's look at why the COVID-19 crisis has led to an increase in addiction problems.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought with it not only a major medical health crisis, but also an increase in mental health problems, particularly depression and anxiety.
In turn, these two psychological problems, combined with the confinement measures and the economic and social uncertainty experienced during the worst moments of the pandemic, have contributed to what could be called a second pandemic: that of addictions. In this article we will see what has caused the increase in drug addiction cases during the health crisis..
Emergence and consolidation of addictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Stress and uncertainty brought on by COVID-19 has resulted in increased demand for mental health services.. Anxiety and depression have been two psychological problems that have grown strongly since the health crisis began in March 2020, but they are not the only problems that have increased in number of cases, being in fact risk factors for presenting several mental disorders, including substance addiction.
Psychotherapists and other mental health care professionals have seen how the use and abuse of substances, such as opioids and psychostimulants, has grown enormously.. Many people have fallen into addictions, consolidated in the pandemic because of several factors, including loneliness, boredom, stress and fear of catching the virus, conditions that all combined have created the perfect storm so that we are not only talking about a viral pandemic, but also about addictions.
In addition to the health risks that substance use disorder alone brings, it has been found that drug-dependent individuals are more likely to develop the worst symptoms of the disease. develop the worst symptoms of COVID-19 disease, have more sequelae once the disease has been overcome, and there is a significantly and have a significantly increased chance of being hospitalized and dying from coronavirus.
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in June 2020 it was reported that about 13% of the country's citizens started and increased their use of addictive substances, both licit and illicit. The main explanation behind this increase was that the population was using drugs as a method of coping with the stress and negative emotions produced by the health crisis..
Although the fact that the population began to take more drugs does not mean that all people became addicted to them, this phenomenon is very worrying because, as a result, cases of overdose also increased, which had shot up since the beginning of the pandemic. The ODMAP system, an app to monitor overdose cases in the United States, indicated that in the first months of the pandemic there was an 18% increase in these cases compared to the same months of 2019.
The COVID crisis and substance use disorders.
Based on research and clinical observation conducted during the pandemic, experts believe that one of the biggest drivers of the increase in substance use has directly to do with economic uncertainty, feelings of loneliness and fear caused by the fear of contracting the disease..
All of these combined at the beginning of the pandemic, times when everyone felt more stressed and lonely, which predisposed them to make unhealthy choices, including drinking and taking drugs.
As people feel more stress, they feel that they have fewer effective ways to manage this emotion.The more so given the nature of the anti-COVID-19 measures of most governments around the world. For example, activities that can be seen as resilience-building, such as exercising outdoors or meeting friends, were not possible because of the ban on all non-essential and non-justified activities.
In the face of these bans, people who already had anxiety problems before the pandemic but were managing them through sport, walking or meeting with friends found that overnight they had to find a new way to manage their emotions. It was because of this that many people resorted to unhealthy coping strategies as their main method of coping, including overeating, abusive pornography consumption and substance abuse, the stars being alcohol and tobacco.
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on drug use patterns.
The increase in substance use has occurred both in terms of quantity and frequency, and in some cases has shifted to more dangerous drugs..
There are people who were already abusing substances before the pandemic who replaced them with new ones, easier to obtain from home but also less safe, because due to restrictions and confinement measures they did not have access to the usual suppliers.
This shift to a new drug is considered one of the reasons why mortality associated with substance use has increased during the pandemic. during the pandemic. For example, a former heroin user may have switched to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 100 times more potent, when the pandemic begins and he or she no longer has a supply of heroin. Not having as much experience with this drug as with cocaine, the user may underestimate its effects and overdose with fatal effects.
There is also a practical explanation for the increase in overdose cases, and not just because of increased substance use. People have been more likely to die from substance abuse during the pandemic because in many cases they were alone.. This meant that there was no one to stop them or convince them to reduce their use and, furthermore, in the event of complications there was no one to call emergency services or administer naloxone, an agent that reverses the effects of opioids.
The importance of proper psychotherapy care.
The stressors that have increased substance use are still in place, and even when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, many people will take months, maybe even months, to recover, many people will take months, maybe years to reduce their use of tobacco, alcohol, coffee, illicit drugs or stop abusing food..
The stress and anxiety behind these properly addictive behaviors will not magically vanish and much uncertainty will remain even when there is no longer a health crisis, a concern that if not properly addressed can eventually manifest itself in a drug overdose.
If a patient recognizes that he or she has been using any substance, either directly or indirectly because of the pandemic, psychotherapy focuses on helping the patient understand what stressors have predisposed him or her to substance use.. In addition to this, healthier and more appropriate alternative ways of coping with stress, whether caused by a health crisis, a humanitarian disaster or everyday problems in the patient's life, are sought.
The patient is helped to a functional analysis of the role of the drug in his or her life and, thus, to find something that will and, thus, to look for something to replace it without posing risks to his or her health.
It is worth noting that, given how the pandemic has increased substance use, it should become a habit among professionals to ask their patient if he/she uses any type of drug, however uncomfortable the question may be, and to know which one, how much and how often.However awkward the question may be, and find out which one they use, how much and how often. While this is part of the clinical interview phase, it is sometimes overlooked.
Also, it should not be assumed that a patient does not have a substance use disorder does not mean that he or she is not abusing drugs or feels that he or she has lost control.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)