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With a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is common for people to have increased anxiety and stress surrounding financial security, employment, health and more. This increase in  stress can lead to increases in alcohol and substance use. We’ve gathered some information from the CDC to help you better understand the relationship between COVID-19 and substance abuse.

Substance Use and COVID-19 

  • The response to the COVID-19 pandemic may result in disruptions to treatment and harm reduction service providers used by persons with a substance use or substance use disorder.
  • In-person treatment options for substance use or substance use disorder might not be available, leading to risk of:
    • Untreated substance or substance use disorder.
    • Return to substance use for people not currently using or in remission.
  • Syringe service programs (SSP) may be closed or have restricted hours, limiting access to:
    • Clean syringes.
    • Safe disposal of used syringes.
    • Testing for HIV and Hepatitis C.
    • Access to care and treatment for SUD and infectious diseases.
  • The illicit drug supply might be disrupted, or people might not be able to obtain drugs because of social distancing, potentially leading to risk of:
    • Withdrawal for people with physical dependence.
    • Contaminated drug products or people using drugs they are not used to, which might increase risk of overdose or other adverse reactions
  • Social distancing guidance and stay-at-home orders may lead to higher numbers of people using substances alone, without others around to administer naloxone, perform life-saving measures, or call for help in case of overdose.
  • Bystanders to an overdose might be reluctant to administer naloxone or perform CPR or other life-saving measures because of fear of COVID-19 exposure.
  • People may be afraid to seek medical attention in the Emergency Department (ED) or from other healthcare professionals for fear of infection.

Drinking alcohol and COVID-19 

    • Drinking alcohol does not protect you from COVID-19.
    • Drinking alcohol weakens your body’s ability to fight infections, increasing the risk of complications and making it harder to get better if you are sick.
    • Alcohol use can increase the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia, which are sometimes associated with COVID-19.

If you or someone you care about is starting to use alcohol or other substances, or is increasing their use during the COVID-19 pandemic, here are a few suggestions that may help:

  • Contact your healthcare provider.
  • Locate virtual treatment and recovery programs
  • Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol or opioid use disorders may be an option.
  • Take medicine as prescribed and continue your therapy, treatment, or support appointments (in person or through telehealth services) when possible.
  • Call the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service (1-800-662-HELP) to speak with someone about an alcohol or substance use problem.