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Substance Abuse During COVID-19

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National alcohol sales in stores were up 54% in March 2020 compared to March 2019, and online sales were up 262%, according to a RAND Corporation study. Joining me is Mihaela Vincze, the public health expert for nonprofit Transamerica Institute, here to discuss substance abuse during the pandemic.


Al: Thank you for being here today, Mihaela.
Mihaela: Thank you for having me.

Al: What are some of the consequences of relying on substances to cope with pandemic stress and anxiety?
Mihaela: Heavy substance abuse is an unhealthy coping strategy because it puts you at risk for dangerous immediate consequences such as alcohol poisoning or drug overdose. In the long-term, substance abuse can cause detrimental health effects such as liver damage, high blood pressure, and memory loss. During the pandemic, it is especially important to remember that substance abuse can also weaken the immune system and increase one’s susceptibility to COVID-19.

Al: Are there any specific populations that are particularly at-risk for substance abuse during the pandemic?
Mihaela: Recovering addicts are a particularly at-risk population for relapse of substance use during lockdown. Not only are they facing the same COVID-19 related triggers as everyone else, but they may be deprived of their recovery support systems such as AA meetings or substance abuse therapy.

Al: What are some ways people can protect and improve their mental health during the pandemic to avoid the risk of substance abuse?
Mihaela: Despite social distancing restrictions, there are still many ways we can proactively and healthfully care for our mental health. Calling friends and family members is a great way to minimize the effects of social isolation and feel more connected to others. Exercise and meditation are also very effective ways to prioritize your overall health and wellbeing, which can help to cope with COVID-19 stress and anxiety. To cope with feeling unproductive or unfulfilled during the pandemic, it can be very beneficial to discover a new hobby.

Al: What options are there for those struggling with substance abuse behavior to get support while socially distancing during the pandemic?
Mihaela: It is extremely important to stay connected with others for support during this time. There are many free and confidential services available online such as 12-Step online group meetings or AA hotlines for consultations with a substance abuse specialist. It is also recommended for people in recovery to maintain communication with members of their support systems pre-pandemic.

Al: Where can listeners go to learn more about substance abuse during COVID-19, and to find resources to seek help?
Mihaela: You can visit usa.gov to learn more about the signs and effects of substance abuse. For help finding program options to treat substance abuse behavior, you can visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.

Al: Thank you again for joining us, Mihaela.
Mihaela: Thank you for having me.
Al: This has been another episode of ClearPath Radio – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth. I’m your host Al Waller – thanks for listening.

Al Waller is a long time native of the Baltimore area. He entered the field of Human Resources Management starting as an HR Generalist with PwC (Pricewaterhouse-Coopers). This marked the beginning of a 30 year career that advanced into the management level for locally and globally based corporations. His primary area of expertise has focused on but not limited to: Talent Acquisition /Retention, Employee Relations as well as Training & Development.