Fear, Isolation, Depression: Mental Health Fallout Of Worldwide Pandemic… More Americans Turning To Drugs And Alcohol

Fear, Isolation, Depression: The Mental Health Fallout of a Worldwide Pandemic

At Provident Behavioral Health in St. Louis, people who called the helpline at the beginning of the pandemic were fearful, even panicked.

“Nearly everyone expressed fear. Fear of catching the virus, fear of the future, fear of the unknown and fear of not knowing how to cope with their feelings,” said Jessica Vance, who manages the Disaster Distress Helpline at Provident.

Now people’s calls and texts, which have leveled off in the past couple of weeks, are more about their isolation and depression.

Nationwide, mental health call and text centers, the first lines of defense for many people feeling jittery during a crisis, offer an early picture of how Americans are coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

Many crisis centers are reporting 30% to 40% increases in the number of people seeking help. The helpline at Provident is experiencing a tenfold increase compared with this time last year, when no national disaster was occurring. So far, the nation’s most heavily used helpline, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, has not seen a spike in call volume.

But mental health experts predict an avalanche of mental health needs as the pandemic progresses.

More Americans turning to drugs and alcohol as coronavirus stress rises, survey shows

With coronavirus-related stress on the rise, so is alcohol and drug use, according to a national survey.

Findings by The Recovery Village, a Florida-based network of addiction treatment facilities, reflect an “expected” increase in substance use during the pandemic, with Americans reporting a 55% rise in alcohol consumption in the last month. When it came to illicit drugs, 36% of Americans reported increased use of marijuana and prescription opioids, among others.

“Experts have already started to voice concerns on the secondary effects America is yet to see from COVID-19,” researchers wrote, among them being “increased rates of addiction afterward due to the stress of isolation, boredom, decreased access to recovery resources and unemployment.”

The findings, published May 11, are the result of a nationwide survey asking 1,000 Americans aged 18 and older about their use of drugs and alcohol in the last month, according to The Recovery Village. The goal? To help addiction and behavioral health experts gain a better understanding of how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting substance use.