Amid the COVID-19 public health emergency, health experts and law enforcement leaders have seen a rise in mental illness, drug overdoses, and addiction-related behaviors.
Several factors have contributed to a rise in drug and alcohol misuse this year:
Some people have used drugs and alcohol as coping methods to deal with fears and stress surrounding the virus.
Increased social isolation from stay-at-home orders can worsen feelings of anxiety and depression, prompting increased substance misuse and suicidal ideation.
Financial disruptions from business shutdowns and job loss can cause anxiety, leading to excessive drug and alcohol use.
Individuals struggling with addiction may have reduced access to providers or treatment centers due to state and local restrictions on healthcare.
Here are some of the more specific findings so far.
Significant Mental Health Impact
In a review published in the December issue of Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers looked at mental health data from eight countries, including the United States. Results showed “relatively high rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychological distress, and stress.”
Common risk factors for mental distress during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
Aged 40 and younger
Preexisting chronic or psychiatric illnesses
Frequent exposure to social media or news regarding COVID-19
A report by Mental Health America found that the prevalence of mental illness among U.S. adults was already on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2017-2018, 19 percent of adults experienced a mental illness, up 1.5 million people from the previous year.
Suicidal ideation also rose among adults by 0.15 percent from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018.
In September 2020, 8 in 10 people who took an anxiety screen showed moderate-to-severe symptoms. The number of people screening with moderate-to-severe depression and anxiety symptoms is currently higher than before COVID-19.
These findings are supported by findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (available via PDF) on suicidal ideation.
Evidence of Increasing Alcohol Consumption
Researchers from the RAND Corporation in California and the Indiana University School of Public Health have found changes in alcohol use during the COVID-19 public health emergency. In a research letter published in September in JAMA Network Open, the authors compared survey data collected from April 29 to June 9, 2019, and from May 28 to June 16, 2020.
The frequency of alcohol consumption increased 19 percent for adults aged 30 to 59 years.
Women in particular reported a 41-percent increase in heavy drinking between the two time periods.
Drug Use and Opioid Overdoses Persist
Many areas are reporting increases in drug use and overdoses, including opioids.
In West Virginia, the number of overdose-related emergency room visits was higher for July and August 2020 than the same months the year before.
In Maryland, 657 overdoses were recorded in Anne Arundel County since January, up 15 percent compared to last year. Of those overdoses, 113 people died, an 8 percent increase in fatalities compared to 2019.
A report by the American Medical Association (PDF) found that more than 40 states have seen a rise in opioid-related mortality.
Behavioral health and addiction treatment providers are seeing increased demand for their services, at the same time they may be facing practice limitations during the COVID-19 public health emergency. BestNotes’ EHR solutions are designed to help your behavioral health practice reduce frustration and stay compliant and profitable. Contact us today to schedule a free demo.