Understanding Addiction During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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As the number of COVID-19 cases rose during the height of the pandemic, there’s also one thing that’s been rising in the United States. And that is the addiction to vices such as alcohol, drugs, etc. The most popular is alcohol addiction. Although many government officials across the country enforced alcohol bans in their cities and/or states, many places didn’t enforce this rule. Thus, 2020 has seen a staggering rise in binge-drinking. In just one week towards the end of March 2020, experts had seen a 54 percent rise in alcohol sales. Slowly, but surely, more and more people started needing private alcohol detox to help them recover from this addiction. Many of these people were already recovering addicts who relapsed.

Before we could start judging these people who formed new addictions or fell off the wagon, we need to understand what led them to their addictions. We need to be able to empathize with them because it’s the first step towards helping them recover.

Limited Services of Treatment Centers

When the COVID-19 pandemic was at its highest, it limited the services of every business establishment. Even if there are essential establishments such as those in the healthcare industry, workers were still limited by the quarantine restrictions and the low number of manpower and resources. This meant that many treatment centers for alcohol, drug, and other vices had to improvise in order to still reach those in need of help. For example, counseling sessions had to move online.

It’s clear that the workers of treatment centers are doing their best. But recovering addicts still suffered a lot. It takes a lot of courage to even admit that they had a problem. So taking a step forward and reaching out for professional help is already a feat in itself. But that feat is greatly affected by the limited services that treatment centers would offer. Thus, many people became less and less motivated to seek professional help to fight off their addiction.

When Social Service Workers Struggled, So Did People with Addiction

Social service workers who delivered services for people’s well-being and welfare were among the many frontline workers who worked through the pandemic. But they were also among the people who suffered the most because of the lack of resources and manpower. And when they struggled to deliver their services, more people weren’t able to get the help that they needed.

There is no doubt that local governments and other institutions have been doing their best to support the social workers. But no one can also deny that people trying to fight off addiction were affected by this as well.

man holding a cigarette

Social Distancing Means Lack of Social Support

Because quarantine restrictions forced people to stay at home, it became much easier for people to hide their growing problem with addiction. They didn’t have friends, families, co-workers, and other people that they used to interact with on a daily basis being able to scrutinize their every move. As a result, people with addictions lost the many chances where their loved ones could have noticed their problem and started helping.

This isn’t the case for every person with addiction, though. Of course, there are still some who had loved ones who were trying their best to help. But video calls and messages can only do so much. Loved ones weren’t there 24/7 to ensure that people really did stay off of alcohol and drugs, and remained healthy and safe.

It also didn’t help that people with addiction often felt lonely on their own. They were literally prohibited from going out for months. Thus, being cooped up alone with their thoughts and negative emotions only exacerbated their problems.

COVID-19 Causing a Very Stressful Time

During the worst months of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became much harder to watch the news. Watching the rising number of cases and hearing journalists and experts repeatedly say, “we need to flatten the curve” ignited people’s fear and anxiety. And these feelings influenced people’s addiction. Some people even reported that small things such as hearing the sounds of ambulance sirens would be enough to trigger their fear and anxiety.

These people became desperate to calm their nerves. Thus, they turned to their comforts—no matter how harmful they were.

Now that people are getting vaccinated, there’s been growing hope that the pandemic will end sooner than we initially thought. But until that day comes, it’s much more important to support those in need of help, especially the people who have been trying to fight their addiction to harmful vices. And understanding their struggle is the first step towards that.

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