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Comfort drugs of the pandemic

To the editor:

Across the country, Americans were coping with the pandemic the best way they knew how. Unfortunately, there were sharp increases in alcohol sales, benzodiazepine drug use and benzo prescriptions, while some states were witnessing a spike in opioid-related deaths. Pharmaceutical drug production is going to increase significantly well into 2021 to make up for the spike in prescribing and Americans stockpiling drugs. People found comfort in these substances to manage lockdowns, self-isolation, job loss and government intervention. Even marijuana sales showed some resiliency in May and throughout the pandemic.

Cannabis sales in five of the nation’s largest recreational markets were mixed according to Marijuana Business Daily. However, the states of Oregon and Washington saw a sharp increase in sales driven by adult-use and in-state residents. Overall, the data suggested that marijuana consumption rose during the pandemic. According to Statista, cannabis sales have surged in the United States in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Despite warnings from health authorities regarding the increased risk of contracting the virus for anyone drinking excessively, or who smokes, vapes or uses marijuana — any drug that impacts the respiratory system — Americans found comfort in the drugs they knew. Emergencies such as the pandemic have a ripple effect on substance use. Quarantine and isolations triggered a behavioral crisis that treatment and health providers are going to be managing for years to come. During the pandemic, relapse rates would have soared as people in recovery were dealing with self-isolation and unable to reach out for the usual help and support.

It is going to be challenging to know the long-term implications of all this, but many people inevitably turned to drugs and alcohol to manage the stress of the pandemic. It has become all too common in the aftermath of an emergency, the rates of substance abuse and misuse increase. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, disaster survivors do not usually develop new substance use disorders. However, there is an increased rate of substance use and misuse in themselves and survivors.

Some people find comfort in knowing they can escape reality by using a legal or illegal substance. Unfortunately, the long-term implications on the health system, communities, and the family dynamic create further problems, and the cycle of finding comfort with drugs and alcohol begins again. The COIVD-19 pandemic, while unprecedented, was another disaster that fueled substance use problems in the United States.

Nickolaus Hayes

Featured author, Addicted.org

Calgary, Alberta