The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has exacerbated challenges for millions of people with substance use disorder (SUD). Two new studies released in September 2020 revealed the extent to which Americans have begun to turn to psychoactive substances in an attempt to alleviate the severe stress brought on by the pandemic.
A cross-sectional study of drug test results from 150,000 patients between November 2019 and July 2020 found increased positivity rates for fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.
The study, published on JAMA Network Open, was co-authored by the US Department of Health and Human Services and Millennium Health. “This study demonstrated that urine drug test positivity in a population diagnosed with or at risk of substance use disorders increased significantly for illicit cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine from the 4 months before the COVID-19 emergency declaration to the 4 months after the COVID-19 declaration,” wrote the authors of the study.
Comparing the results of patients during the pandemic against results of those screened prior to the declaration of COVID-19 being a national emergency, researchers found patients were:
- 67 percent more likely to test positive for fentanyl
- 33 percent more likely to test positive for heroin
- 23 percent more likely to test positive for methamphetamine
- 19 percent more likely to test positive for cocaine
Alcohol consumption has also increased significantly. A second study, also published by JAMA Network Open in September, found that overall alcohol use among adults over 30 was up 14 percent over the same time period last year, with women increasing heavy drinking—defined as having four or more drinks within a couple of hours—by 41 percent.
The RAND Corporation study was based on a survey of 1,540 adults who are members of the organization’s American Life Panel. Participants were asked about their alcohol consumption in the spring of 2020 versus the spring of 2019.
“These data provide evidence of changes in alcohol use and associated consequences during the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote the authors. “In addition to a range of negative physical health associations, excessive alcohol use may lead to or worsen existing mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression which may themselves be increasing during COVID-19.”
“The impact of COVID-19 on psychological symptoms and disorders, addiction and health behavior is substantial and ongoing and will negatively impact people’s mental health and put them at greater risk for chronic illness and drug addiction,” wrote psychology professor and associate editor of Behaviour Research and Therapy, Michael Zvolensky. “It will not equally impact all of society. Those at greater risk are those that have mental health vulnerabilities or disorders.”
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues, Recovery Ways wants to help. Our admissions coordinators can recommend a plan of action. Call 888.988.5217 to learn more.