The Increase in Substance Use Throughout the Pandemic

By  //  July 23, 2021

During 2020 and 2021, as a result of the uncertainty that came with the coronavirus pandemic, there was a huge increase in the demand for mental health services.

Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety swept the nation; however, they were not the only problem that people were suffering from. There has also been a huge increase in the number of people using opioids throughout lockdown. 

It turned out that those who had a history of substance misuse were much more likely to develop covid-19, and as a result, suffer from worse symptoms, which meant a higher risk of hospitalization and fatalities. 

The Increase in Substance Use 

According to recent reports produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as soon as June 2020, there had been a 13% increase in the number of Americans who were using substances in order to deal with the amount of stress that came with lockdown. This has continued throughout the year and into 2021, as over 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality. 

The Relationship Between Covid and Drug Use 

There have been calls not to label covid as the direct cause of increased drug use; however, experts seem to be in agreement that although it may not be the overall cause, there is certainly some element of economic stress, loneliness, and anxiety surrounding the pandemic that is a huge factor.

Professor on behavioral science, William Stoops, commented: “There’s sort of a perfect storm of factors that we know increase drug use.” He went on to say: “People are more stressed and isolated, so they make unhealthy decisions including drinking more and taking drugs.”  

As stress increases, the ways that it can be managed by healthy means decrease. A lot of the time, when people are given options on how to deal with addiction, they are advised to get out and go on social activities, which of course, was not an option throughout lockdown. 

There are also practical reasons that lead to an increase in drug fatalities. This is because, naturally, people are less likely to die from a drug overdose if they are taking them with other people. With the pandemic, given that so many had to isolate, there were a lot of people using drugs on their own, which led to unresponded overdoses. 

How Do We Respond? 

There are facilities available to people who are suffering from addiction, such as Recovery at the Crossroads, which is based in Woodbury, NJ. There are similar facilities in every state, and as such, people need to encourage friends or family members who are suffering from addiction to help themselves by visiting these facilities. 


Due to the increased amount of stress that people have been suffering as a result of the pandemic, there has been an increase in drug use. Not only that but an increase in mortality due to the fact that opioid users are more likely to develop serious covid symptoms and due to the practicalities of using drugs in lockdown. 

To try and combat this, people need to be referred to organizations such as Recovery at the Crossroads, which are set up to help people struggling with both drug and alcohol addiction.