Survey Shows Drug and Alcohol Use on the Rise During COVID-19 Pandemic

Nearly two months have passed since America began taking preventative measures in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. With many businesses closing their doors or reducing hours, millions of Americans are without work. Others have been able to transition to remote working roles, but self-quarantines and social distancing recommendations mean that many people — employed or not — are mostly stuck at home without social activities and other outside outlets. 

Experts have already started to voice concerns on the secondary effects America is yet to see from COVID-19. Namely, there’s expected to be a rise in substance abuse throughout the pandemic and increased rates of addiction afterward due to the stress of isolation, boredom, decreased access to recovery resources and unemployment. In fact, there’s already preliminary evidence pointing to this outcome in the sharp increases in alcohol sales and demand for alcohol delivery.

The Recovery Village recently conducted a survey on past-month drug and alcohol use to better understand how the pandemic is currently affecting substance use.

Results of The Recovery Village Survey

The survey asked 1,000 American adults (ages 18 and older) about their use of drugs and alcohol in the past month. Some questions asked respondents to select each option that applied, so in a few instances, the total percentage will be greater than one hundred.

The survey respondents most commonly used:

  • Alcohol (88%)
  • Marijuana (37%)
  • Prescription opioids (15%)
  • Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax (11%)
  • Prescription stimulants, such as Adderall (10%)
  • Cocaine (9%)

Additionally, many respondents displayed higher rates of drug and alcohol use. Of the respondents:

  • 55% reported an increase in past-month alcohol consumption, with 18% reporting a significant increase
  • 36% reported an increase in illicit drug use
  • In the states hardest hit by the coronavirus (NY, NJ, MA, RI, CT), 67% reported an increase in past-month alcohol consumption, with 25% reporting a significant increase

The participants were asked why they were prompted to use substances within the last month. Of the respondents:

  • 53% were trying to cope with stress
  • 39% were trying to relieve boredom
  • 32% were trying to cope with mental health symptoms, such as anxiety or depression

Others reported using substances for recreational reasons, to treat pain or because it was part of their daily routine, such as having a drink with dinner.

What the Results Mean

The survey results indicate that many people could be turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with pressures created by coronavirus. Using drugs or alcohol to cope with life circumstances, such as stress or boredom, can become a habit that leads to a substance use disorder. When individuals use drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate and cope with symptoms of a mental health disorder, they can develop a co-occurring substance use disorder. Co-occuring mental health disorders are very common in those with a substance use disorder.

Addiction recovery and support services are more important than ever, as these resources can provide help for those who are struggling with their mental health. Many recovery support groups have moved meetings to online platforms, and telehealth services allow patients to receive mental health care from the comfort of their homes. In the aftermath of COVID-19, the nation will likely need to turn its attention to the millions of Americans who have developed substance use disorders during the pandemic. 

If you or a loved one is turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with the pandemic, help is available at The Recovery Village. Contact us today to learn more about clinical and online treatment options that can work well for your situation.