This blog post is adapted from a paper written by UsagiMed’s Lynn Hubbard.
The prolonged uncertainty and anxiety drawn from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in substance and alcohol abuse, with the CDC reporting in June 2020 that 13% of Americans claim starting substance use as a way of coping with emotional weight related to COVID-19. While COVID-19 cases in the U.S. seem to be dropping, the aftermath of the pandemic still impacts us, especially those struggling with addiction. From closed businesses to lost loved-ones, substance abuse is another far-reaching effect of COVID-19 that has changed lives across the United States.
Pandemic Side Effects: Addiction
Antonia Abbey from Wayne State University reports that one of the two main reasons people begin to drink alcohol regularly is to cope with stress, plausibly another detrimental outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic. The uncertainty of whether or not you’d catch the virus at work, or whether or not a loved one would face harm from COVID-19, is more than enough to exacerbate stress. Additionally, the pandemic left hundreds of millions worldwide indoors for months, decreasing social interactions tremendously. While less social activity can be cathartic for some, research shows that decreased social interaction can have negative mental health outcomes. It would seem that many people simply rely on going places and enjoying social meetings to stay mentally healthy.
COVID-19 has also affected access to resources for dealing with addiction and substance abuse. Although people are continuing to get their vaccinations and maintain social distance, many doctor’s offices, especially therapists and psychiatrists, are staying open through tele-health options. While this can feel less personal, it remains a convenient way to talk to a professional from the comfort of your own home. Speaking to a therapist or psychologist can be a great first step towards recovering from addiction or other unhealthy coping mechanisms brought on by COVID-19 stressors.
In the U.S., you have many options for finding help: Use the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator, call the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357, or contact the National Drug Helpline at 844-289-0879. There are also resources for parents to help their addicted loved ones: Get One-on-One Help to Address Your Child’s Substance Use, or call the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids helpline at 1-855-378-4373.
Returning To Cons
COVID-19 has left millions recovering from a variety of stressors and mental health struggles, but as Americans continue to do their best to stay safe, we can hope to see some relief soon.
A word of caution from all of your UsagiMed friends: As conventions start to reopen, please don’t use them as an excuse to go nuts.
Substance abuse challenges can become much more of a struggle in stressful situations like conventions, especially when there are huge parties with who-knows-what being consumed. Sensory overload, combined with a care-free environment, combined with the availability of deleterious substances is a recipe for disaster. Please continue to take care of yourself, even as we all enjoy an opportunity to blow off some steam.
As always, if UsagiMed is at your con, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help if you need it. We maintain our facilities as safe spaces, and we staff personnel who are well equipped to handle all manner of emergencies, even addictions.
UsagiMed is all about improving safety and reducing your con’s liability. Call on us so we can be your event partners. As you plan and prepare, we will answer any questions you may have about addictions, mental health, and creating a safe space for all your attendees, guests, and staff. Feel free to drop us a question and we will answer you.