Over the last several years, or even for at least the last decade, when someone mentions substance use disorder or addiction the first thing that anyone thinks of is the opioid epidemic. America’s opioid crisis has been in full swing since the 1990’s, with the first major wave of increased prescribing of opioid began due to Purdue Pharma and OxyContin, with overdoses and overdose deaths due to prescription opioids increased since at least 1999. Since that time, America’s opioid epidemic has only seemed to get worse, with 2010 seeing a dangerous and alarming trend of more opioid overdoses due to heroin and other illicit narcotics, and the last several years being dominated by the use and misuse of the extremely dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl.
However, there is another unfortunate substance use disorder trend taking place concurrently in the United States right alongside the continued opioid crisis. And it is everybody’s “favorite” drug of choice: Alcohol. While America continues to deal with rising opioid addiction issues and rising fatal overdose rates, the impact of the COVID-19 global health pandemic since the beginning of 2020 has seen a major rise in the use of alcohol, which in turn is leading to more Americans having problems and issues with alcohol, meeting criteria for alcohol use disorder, and alcoholism.
To be clear, alcohol and many people’s dangerous and often unhealthy relationship with alcohol has never left. Alcohol is a major part of American society, with many people engaging in social drinking and alcohol-fueled social events. This mindset that the use of alcohol is a normal, everyday part of society is what makes it so dangerous; it’s easy to see that someone has a substance use disorder problem if they are using heroin or abusing or misusing opioids, but it’s more difficult for individuals to self-identify or for friends and family to notice a problem or issue with alcohol. Alcohol is just part of who we are and what we do as Americans. Sure, alcoholism has always impacted a percentage of the population, but the use of alcohol isn’t going away.
However, it may be due to just this reason that since the start of COVID-19 alcoholism and alcohol use disorder has been on the rise. The United States, and the entire world, are dealing with a collective trauma due to the pandemic. None of us have ever dealt with a worldwide pandemic, and the effects of it on society, on our families, on our businesses or careers, on our social connection, and on our mental health. To think that global shutdowns, fear of disease, disconnection and all the other things that COVID-19 created wouldn’t have a lasting impact, of which we are still just beginning to feel and understand, would be shortsighted. COVID-19 really hit everyone hard, and most people had difficulty dealing with or even processing and understanding what they were living through. It was and continues to be extremely stressful. And what do Americans often do in times of stress? Look for a stress-reliever, something that will take the edge off. And what did Americans turn to, and continue to turn to, during this time of great fear and crisis? Well, of course, it was alcohol.
The old faithful, King Alcohol, is back in swing. Alcohol never left us, especially during COVID-19. More people are drinking more. Numerous reports show that individuals agreed that since COVID-19, they are drinking more, drinking more regularly, dealing with more alcohol-related issues, blacking out more, and spending more money on alcohol. Couples identified that alcohol was causing more issues in their marriage and relationships. Spouses or parents were reporting that their spouse or family member were having issues with alcohol, even though they had never had any addiction or substance use disorder issues in the past. As the country opened back up and pandemic restrictions were lifted, more people sought to have more social connection and interaction, which almost always involved alcohol. Now, addiction treatment centers and rehabs are seeing something that they haven’t seen in a long time: rather than most phone calls or admitting patients demonstrating the need for treatment due to opioids, most calls or admissions revolve are a patient’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol. While many of these patients may be dealing with polysubstance use disorder, which is when an individual meets criteria for using several substances at the same time, almost always is one of those substances alcohol.
Alcoholism, maybe the first and most well-known of all addiction and substance use disorder, is back trending in America in a big way. And while there may be less stigma or shame associated with having a drinking problem or misusing alcohol than there is with opioids, heroin, or other prescription narcotics, the other issues with alcohol are that it can take longer for someone to admit the need for help, the consequences can last longer, their “bottom” may take longer to find, and it can be deadly. Alcohol withdrawals are one of the most dangerous and deadly withdrawals of any substance, almost always requiring a 24/7 medical detox to safely ween of the alcohol dependence. While economically, America is far from the Roaring Twenties, the country’s obsession and dangerous relationship and dependence on alcohol is once again at its peak. We are using alcohol for everything- to enjoy ourselves, to interact with our friends and families, to celebrate, to relieve stress, and to just take the edge off. And it is ending with many people dealing with ruined relationships, lost jobs or careers, angry or disappointed family members, and the need for detox and addiction treatment.
As America continues to trend in the wrong direction with alcoholism, the good news is that help is available. A medical detox can help individuals safely and comfortably stop using alcohol, and addiction treatment centers and rehabs can help them begin a journey of sobriety where alcohol no longer has to control them, create unhappiness or life consequences, be their answer for everything, and instead they can find a joyful, happy life in recovery.
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorders, please give us a call. Innovo Detox offers the latest in evidence-based medical, psychiatric, and clinical care for those in need of detox and medical stabilization in Pennsylvania and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or a loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a detox, rehab, treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (717) 619-3260 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on our company or services, please visit our website at www.innovodetox.com.