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  • The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a number of risks since its spread in early 2020. Even those not directly affected by the virus may experience health risks associated with lockdowns, social distancing, and other protective measures designed to keep people safe.

    This year has also seen a spike in mental health issues due to COVID-19. The pandemic has led to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and helplessness; more people have reported considering suicide in the past year because of the pandemic.

    Mental health issues can cause people to turn to substances, such as alcohol or prescription drugs, to self-medicate or escape their problems. 

    Unfortunately, using any kind of substance may cause more issues down the road.

    Substance Abuse During COVID-19

    Substance use has gone up significantly since March 2020. Increased anxiety and fear, lack of social support, and ease of access to substances are among the most significant reasons. 

    Increased stress, anxiety, and fear are all common during a pandemic. To cope, you may look to substances for temporary relief. Unfortunately, this relief can be harmful to your overall health.

    Alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and prescription medications are some of the most commonly abused substances during the pandemic.


    Many people cite depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues as reasons for alcohol abuse. These issues have increased since the pandemic started, which means that alcohol abuse is likely on the rise.


    Tobacco may increase your risk of COVID-related complications. Smoking and vaping puts you at risk for lung damage, and COVID is a respiratory disease. If you contract COVID after smoking heavily, you may be less equipped to fight it.

    Prescription Drugs

    Prescription drugs such as Xanax, Ritalin, and Adderall are often prescribed to treat mental health issues. They are also common targets for abuse. In a time where more people are looking for ways to cope, risk of prescription drug abuse is significant.

    Illicit Drugs

    Lockdowns and social distancing guidelines may prevent some people from obtaining illicit drugs. Some people in Italy, for example, have been reported for breaking quarantine in order to search for drugs. This poses several new health risks, including overdose.

    Drug Overdose During COVID-19

    Although comprehensive data regarding COVID and drug overdose is hard to come by, experts are worried about some trends.

    Here are some facts associated with drug overdose during COVID-19:

    • over 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related deaths since the pandemic began
    • drug overdoses have spiked by 18 percent in the U.S.
    • health experts say that fentanyl (a powerful opioid that’s often combined with other street drugs) plus coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns is a deadly combination

    Some recent reports also suggest that certain populations are at higher risk of addiction and drug overdose during COVID, including black and latinix populations. 

    Suicide & Suicidal Ideation During COVID-19

    Suicidal ideation occurs when one gives serious thought to taking their own life. This may include planning out methods of suicide or announcing their intentions to others.

    Increased social isolation during COVID may cause a person to think they are alone and unable to escape. This may cause them to consider extreme measures. 

    In a June 2020 survey conducted by the CDC, over 10 percent of participants reported some form of suicidal ideation.

    Suicide threats should always be taken seriously. During a time where mental health is low, it’s important to keep tabs on your loved ones, as well as yourself.

    Getting Help During A Pandemic

    Drug abuse often happens because of a lack of access to resources. Education, information, and a network of support are all helpful resources to fight addiction. 

    Although the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted some of these services, professional help is still available. This includes help at a hospital for suspected drug overdose or following a suicide attempt, as well as help at a mental health or addiction treatment center.

    If you or a loved one are struggling with drug abuse during this pandemic, we can help. Our Massachusetts facilities offer help in safe, risk-free environments. 

    To learn more about our services, please connect with us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on July 26, 2022
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