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Recognizing the early warning signs for addiction is important, especially as the pandemic continues. People have to self-isolate away from support, rates of addiction have increased across the country, and more people struggle with anxiety and depression linked to addiction. Moreover, family intervention services are a useful tool for families to consider if the signs of addiction are apparent and need outside help. A major contributing factor in 2020 and even in 2021 has been stress, and increased stress can lead to increases in alcohol and substance use—COVID-19 has been a significant stress point.

What are the signs of addiction?

Anyone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol will exhibit physical and behavioral signs. Physical symptoms may include the following:

• Changes in pupil size or bloodshot eyes
• Weight changes
• Varied sleeping patterns
• Unexpected clumsiness
• Change in personal hygiene and appearance
• Constant nasal congestion
• Sores on the face or body
• Withdrawal symptoms

Behavioral Symptoms may include:
• Lack of responsibility and unreliable
• Missing working or school regularly
• Asking to borrow money
• Drastic mood swings
• Anxiety and depression
• Physical cravings for drugs
• Deceptive and drug-seeking behavior
• Substance abuse despite consequences

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused problems across every facet of life, and all Americans are dealing with it differently. However, it has increased substance abuse rates, addiction, overdose, and mental health problems. It is more important than ever to be aware of these issues and recognize the signs of addiction before the issue becomes worse.

How Has COVID-19 Contributed to Substance Abuse and Addiction?

The pandemic has had a significant impact on public mental health, and the prevalence of stress, anxiety, and depression has become all the more noticeable within the general population. One systematic review and meta-analysis indicate the pandemic is not only causing physical health concerns but also a number of psychological disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during late June of 2020, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental issues or substance abuse. Approximately 13% started or increased substance use while 11% seriously considered suicide.

Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse talks about new evidence on substance use disorders and COVID-19 susceptibility. There is reason to be concerned that people with an addiction are particularly vulnerable to the virus. Data gathered from 73 million patients at 360 U.S. hospitals, of whom 7.5 million had a substance use disorder, showed there is indeed a higher risk of contracting and suffering from worse consequences from COVID-19.

These issues extend even further with those that are in recovery and people that have beaten addiction. In another article published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, since March of 2020, there have been significant increases in many kinds of drug use. A survey conducted by the Addiction Policy Forum showed that 20% of respondents reported that their own family members’ substance use had increased since the start of the pandemic. Also, a nationwide sample of 500,000 urine drug tests showed steep increases in the use of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse outlined significant spikes in the sales of spirits, wine, and beer from March 20202 to October 2020. Excessive alcohol use causes significant problems like increasing the risk of family problems and violence. Also, it alters thought, judgment, and decision making, worsens sleep, and increases anxiety and depression. Moreover, drinking alcohol weakens the body’s ability to fight off infections, increasing the risk of complications and making it harder to recover from illness.

Family Intervention Saves Lives

Noticing the signs of addiction is one step but intervening and getting the individual help is crucial. All addiction becomes worse without proper treatment. The increasing stress and problems created by the pandemic have increased the need for family intervention. Many people underestimate the effectiveness of early intervention and substance use treatment. Rehabilitation is vital, and an intervention is used to convince the drug-addicted family member they need help.

The goal of an intervention is to intervene before the addiction spirals out of control, and it becomes difficult to treat. Professional interventionists are the best option to guide a family through the intervention process. Also, if the family or friends are unsure of what to look for with signs of addiction, an interventionist can help. Most addicts are not ready to stop using, which is especially true now as the pandemic continues to make headline news adding stress to everyday Americans’ lives.

Coping with ongoing stress is not easy, but treatment helps the addict and the family learn how to manage and cope with these issues. Rehabilitation provides extensive resources and solutions, and treatment centers and services across the country are still operating. No one form of rehabilitation is right for every person, and there are numerous options regardless of the severity of the addiction. What is important is the family noticing the signs of addiction, taking immediate action, and saving the drug-addicted family member’s life.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol and Substance Use. Basics of excessive alcohol use. Jan. 19 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/stress-coping/alcohol-use.html
Salari N, Hosseinian-Far A, Jalali R, Vaisi-Raygani A, Rasoulpoor S, Mohammadi M, Rasoulpoor S, Khaledi-Paveh B. Prevalence of stress, anxiety, depression among the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Global Health. 2020 Jul 6;16(1):57. doi: 10.1186/s12992-020-00589-w. PMID: 32631403; PMCID: PMC7338126.
Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1
NIDA. “New Evidence on Substance Use Disorders and COVID-19 Susceptibility.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 5 Oct. 2020, https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2020/10/new-evidence-substance-use-disorders-covid-19-susceptibility
NIDA. “Addressing the Unique Challenges of COVID-19 for People in Recovery .” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 14 Sep. 2020, https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2020/09/addressing-unique-challenges-covid-19-people-in-recovery
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research. Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System. SURVEILLANCE REPORT COVID-19. Alcohol Sales During the COVID-19 Pandemic. 07-09-2020. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/surveillance-covid-19/COVSALES.htm

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