The Impact of Covid-19 on Drug and Alcohol Abuse

The COVID-19 global pandemic has impacted drug and alcohol use significantly. Between isolation, losing jobs, and feelings of anxiety and depression, many people are struggling to cope. The pandemic has brought on feelings of loneliness and grief. We experience sorrow for the many lives lost due to COVID-19. We also experience grief for the loss of our normal way of life. Every person has been affected by the pandemic on some level, whether they know someone who has passed away from COVID-19 or not. According to a study presented by the CDC in August 2020, 13% of American adults reported starting or increasing substance use to cope. The reality is, that number is likely a lot higher. Fortunately, you can reach out to a substance abuse program like the Bridges of San Diego to receive information about treatment. The first step to recovery is seeking help.


Isolation is one of the critical factors that might cause someone to turn to drugs or alcohol. The pandemic has isolated Americans like never before. Simple activities, like going out to dinner with friends or meeting up with family over the weekend, became challenging. With closures and strict warnings from the CDC, many Americans quarantined for weeks, months, and some over a year without seeing the people they love. Isolation can be very difficult. While staying in touch via text, phone calls, or Zoom is a great alternative, nothing beats real life interactions with the people we love. These feelings of isolation led many people to start drinking more or abusing substances. Isolation was especially dangerous to those who were already prone to addiction or those who are in recovery from an addiction. Psychology Today states that in the first month of the pandemic, alcohol sales increased by 55%. The CDC also reported recently the highest-ever number of fatal overdoses in a 12 month period. The large increase is staggering and shows that many people were using alcohol as a way to cope with isolation, boredom, grief, and the many other wide ranges of emotions brought on by the pandemic.

Economic Despair

Another significant consequence of the pandemic was millions of Americans losing their jobs. Many employers had to close their business or significantly cut back their workforce due to statewide closures and regulations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in July 2020, 31.3 million people reported they had been unable to work at some point in the past four weeks because their employer either closed or lost business due to the pandemic. The number of people out of work was huge! Many people were jobless for weeks or months. Others were in and out of work as states opened up and closed down multiple times depending on case levels. Economic despair due to job loss could be a factor that leads someone to turn to alcohol or drug use to cope. This can also be a vicious cycle, because often alcohol and drug abuse can lead someone into even more financial hardship as an increasing amount of money is spent on the addiction.

Mental Health Issues

The CDC did a study in June 2020 providing data about mental health and substance abuse after the first few months of the pandemic. At that time, 31% of adult Americans were experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression. Also, 11% of Americans had seriously considered suicide. Keep in mind, this study was done relatively early on in the pandemic. If we were to look at numbers now, a year later, the percentages could potentially be even higher. Anxiety and alcohol use are often connected. People use alcohol as a way to relax and ease their anxiety. The problem is, alcohol and drugs mask the anxiety or depression temporarily, only for it to return the next day. The short-lived relief can lead people to partake in drinking more or using more drugs to further mask the pains they were experiencing from anxiety or depression.

Get the Help You Need From a Substance Abuse Program

If you are dealing with drug or alcohol abuse, you can get help! The pandemic has been very difficult on Americans and has led many to develop drug/alcohol addictions or relapse from prior addictions. The best way to start your journey to recovery is to find a treatment center that can help. The Bridges of San Diego is a drug and alcohol outpatient treatment center that provides care for those struggling with addiction. We have both an Intensive Outpatient Program and a Partial Hospitalization Program. When you come to our center, you will work with caring and compassionate therapists who will help you every step of the way during your journey to recovery. Also, our patients participate in group therapy, which is an excellent way for you to see that you aren’t alone in your struggles and recovery goals. The best part about our outpatient program is that you don’t have to uproot your life for treatment. You can keep working and living at home, all while participating in an intensive rehabilitation program.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an extremely challenging time. As weeks turned into months which turned into over a year, many Americans felt the effects of isolation, economic despair, and mental health issues. For many, these feelings led to alcohol and/or drug abuse as people struggled to cope. Seeking treatment is the first step to recovery. The Bridges of San Diego has helped many people to successfully recover from their addictions. Through therapy, goal setting, and detailed treatment plans, our patients get attentive, one-on-one help. For more information about our substance abuse programs, give us a call today. We will have a quick 15 minute conversation to discuss your situation, where we can then best advise you on the next steps. Just remember, you aren’t alone, and you do have options that can lead you to recovery.