Just when everyone thought the COVID pandemic was coming to an end, the omicron variant made an appearance and reignited concerns over infection. It also extended closures, kept schools shuttered and delayed workers returning to the office.
The pandemic has been difficult for most people to cope with for a variety of reasons. It’s been particularly troubling for those who are addicted to alcohol, medications or illegal substances who’s IOP program or care were impacted. The latest reports show that the pandemic is continuing to take a toll, and substance abuse has increased as a result.
Need help with addiction recovery during the pandemic? Find an IOP Program Near Me
Remote Work Increased Substance Abuse During the Day
The fact that drug and alcohol use during the daytime hours has increased comes as no surprise to the experts at our Dallas Intensive Outpatient Program. While there have been upsides to working at home, such as having more control over the daily work schedule, there have also been drawbacks.
The isolation paired with increased stress and no oversight has led to more substance use during work hours. One of the most serious downsides is that there has been a notable increase in overdose deaths as well, which were at an all-time high between April 2020 and April 2021. Another compounding factor is that workers have been affected even if they aren’t the ones with an addiction. Employees that have been working at home with a family member who battles addiction have found it harder to remain focused and productive.
Increased opioid use is a widespread problem that has had to be addressed by 75% of employers according to the National Safety Council. However, there are more startling statistics. Sierra Tucson, an Arizona mental health treatment center, surveyed over 1,000 employees during the pandemic. Over 25% stated that being able to use alcohol and drugs recreationally during the workday is a benefit of working from home. Nearly three quarters of the employees who admitted to using alcohol and drugs while working said that it would be hard to give up if they have to return to the office.
Now that the omicron variant is extending office closures these issues will be drawn out and will likely get worse.
Increased Stress and Letting Self-Care Slip Supports Bad Habits
Just a few months into the pandemic the Centers for Disease Control reported an uptick in substance abuse due to increased stress from the pandemic. In June 2020, 13% of those surveyed said they started or increased the use of alcohol and/or drugs in an attempt to deal with the stress of the pandemic. There was also an 18% increase in overdoses during the early part of the pandemic, and the rates have remained elevated.
Researchers note there are several things going on that increased stress levels during the pandemic and ultimately increased substance abuse:
- General anxiety about the virus and getting sick.
- Economic, financial and employment concerns.
- Loneliness and disconnection from loved ones.
Addiction specialists have long known stress paired with isolation is a big risk factor for substance abuse. Another part of the problem was that people’s normal daily routines have been disrupted. This not only creates stress but also decreases people’s ability to engage in healthy coping mechanisms like going to the gym or church. An important part of managing mental health during COVID is making self-care a priority, but unfortunately many people turned to self-medicating with illegal substances and alcohol.
Fewer Things to Do Fueled Substance Abuse
Stress isn’t the only factor that has increased substance abuse during the pandemic. At our Intensive Outpatient Program in Dallas we recognized early on that boredom is one of the challenges for IOP participants during the pandemic.
Our IOP program providers understand that boredom is a negative influence given that people who consume the most alcohol live in New England, followed by the northern states. In addition to cultural norms, boredom in the winter months when people stay at home more is a contributing factor in alcohol consumption.
When there is less to do and people have to stay at home more, it’s an added temptation for people who struggle with addiction and have fewer ways to distract themselves. Worse still, is that when people abuse substances at home on their own they are more likely to die from an overdose. It is a major contributing factor for why there was a 30% increase in overdose deaths in 2020 compared to the year before.
At the beginning of the pandemic some treatment centers limited their services, which made matters worse for the people who needed assistance. Lighthouse Recovery is committed to safely providing patients with the services they so desperately need in a time when they are needed the most. These services are vital at any time, but they are even more necessary given that people who battle addiction are at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
If you or someone you love has developed a substance abuse problem during the pandemic, enrolling in professional addiction services like our Intensive Outpatient Program in Dallas is an important first step to recovery.
Find an Intensive Outpatient Program near me that can help.