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Drug and Alcohol Use Increase During the Pandemic

The novel coronavirus pandemic is creating challenges in all areas of life. Isolation is forcing a lot of people to slip into a destructive pothole, including those who already suffer from alcoholism and drug abuse to relapse. Many people around the world are feeling extreme levels of restlessness, fear of possible job loss, stress, anxiety, uncertainty, reduced income, isolation from loved ones and depression due to ongoing situation could lead to alcohol and drug overuse.


Since the pandemic alcohol sales have increased in the US, 1:5 people have stocked up on alcohol and alcohol-containing beverages in larger quantities. According to the USA today WHO (World Health Organization) refrained from alcohol use during the isolation period stating that substance abuse could weaken the immune system and organs, which could put users at high risk of contracting the virus. The increase in alcohol intake can have a short term and long term effect on the health, particularly lungs and liver causing commutable and non-commutable diseases. It could also affect the ability of the body to fight infections like COVID-19. Researchers have said that the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to an Alcohol epidemic and the next big challenge after Covid-19 could be fighting alcoholism in the USA and around the world.

Due to isolation, people are drinking more frequently day long, which could increase alcoholism in people who were occasionally drinking. Millions of Americans are drinking in-office hours while staying at home as no physical boss is hovering over them. 1:3 people in the US have increased alcohol consumption during isolation. The affluent suburban areas are more susceptible to having drug and alcohol abuse. People are at home and have easy access to alcohol so much so that it has become a norm. And for some people, every hour is a happy hour.

Covid-19 is worsening economic and psychological issues. People drink to alleviate the stress they are feeling using alcohol as a maladaptive coping mechanism to deal with negative thoughts and emotions, leading to unhealthy usage. Addiction is centered in the mind and people self-medicate to digest their emotions. Because of the pandemic, people are more stressed, and they are experiencing uncontrollable emotions that are new. While a few shots might help you to get through the stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts, it can also lead to a slippery slope of destruction that ranges from mild to severe.

According to alcohol.org, there is a 47% increase in the sales of alcohol, alcohol-containing beverages, malt, and liquor compared to last year. Alcohol sales alone have increased by 55% overall in the past few months. People are buying cheaper alcohol. Online sales have also been rising due to panic buying and hoarding alcohol alongside other items. 55.3% are binge drinking, 5.8% are now suffering from alcohol disorder, and 4:17 people are consuming alcohol heavily.

The graph illustrates a rise in alcohol usage according to age in the past 6 months. 

Unlike other illicit drugs, alcohol is a silent killer. It is estimated that by the time people will return to their normal regime work, most of them who were drinking religiously daily would be alcohol dependent and in need of treatment. This might affect job performance and could create a productivity disaster for companies and firms. It may also cause a significant rise in employers' and coworkers' problems, making workplace volatile for them.

What should Employers/managers do?

  • Before rejoining offices employers must get their employees tested for alcohol and other drugs.
  • Randomly screen employees for the next 6 months.
  • Employees with alcohol or substance abuse issue must be sent for rehabilitation treatment.
  • They can set up a surveillance desk where employees can be tested for alcohol abuse; for this purpose alcohol saliva strips and mouth swab test can be the best use because of their fast and accurate results.

Many people only undergo a temporary addiction phase and recover from it on their own but if the pandemic persists for a longer period of time then there might be a significant increase in alcoholics. Substance abuse experts provide screening and assessment of individuals to determine whether treatment is necessary or not.

Organizations must prepare for greater demand for mental health and substance abuse services. Their target interventions should be;

  • Preventative medicine
  • Risk reduction
  • Financial support
  • Provide online recovery treatment
  • Provide information about misuse and overdose


 

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