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Every indication suggests that COVID-19 has led to a surge of drug and alcohol use. What’s more, reports indicate that relapse among people in recovery is on the rise as well. If you experienced a relapse recently, please summon the courage to get back to recovery. We understand how challenging it is to identify as a newcomer again, but matters will only worsen the longer you wait. 


In recent months, it has been challenging to find stories of hope regarding drug and alcohol use. These unprecedented times have more Americans than ever struggling with anxiety, fear, and depression. Those who lack healthy coping mechanisms are prone to self-medicate their symptoms, which often creates more problems. 


A new study shows that misuse of fentanyl, heroin, and non-prescribed opioid painkillers is on the rise, according to a Quest Diagnostics news release. What’s more, laboratory data indicates that the mixing of fentanyl with other drugs like amphetamines and benzodiazepines skyrocketed during the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. 


Fentanyl and Heroin Misuse



Researchers at Quest Diagnostics compared testing positivity rates for January 1, 2019-March 14, 2020 and March 15-May 16, 2020. They found that the drug positivity rate increased 35% for non-prescribed fentanyl. Moreover, the Quest Diagnostics Health Trends study showed a 44% increase in heroin use during the pandemic compared to the period prior. 


The most concerning findings of the study involved the mixture of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs. When opioids are mixed with other substances, the risk of an overdose increases exponentially. Compared to before the pandemic, the combination of fentanyl and amphetamines rose by 89%, benzodiazepines 48%, opiates 39%, and cocaine 34%. 


The findings, appearing in the journal Population Health Management, come from an analysis of more than 872,000 de-identified lab results representative of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It’s the largest nationally representative study based on laboratory data available. 


“The COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect storm for a rise in substance use disorders and other forms of prescription and illicit drug misuse. Stress, job losses and depression compounded with isolation and a lack of access to health services can trigger prescription medication overuse, illicit drug use, or relapses,” said co-author Harvey W. Kaufman, M.D., Senior Medical Director, Head of Health Trends Research Program, Quest Diagnostics. 


Young Adults Drinking Less Alcohol


The research laid out above is concerning, and efforts should be made to ensure that everyone who needs assistance can access care. In other news, there are optimistic findings from a new study regarding young adult alcohol use. 


Researchers at the University of Michigan and Texas State University found that fewer college-age adults are abusing alcohol compared to 20 years ago. The findings, appearing in JAMA Pediatrics, indicates that the number of young adults choosing to abstain from alcohol rose between 2002 and 2018. 


The number of college-age Americans, 18-22, who abstained from alcohol increased from 20% to 28% for those in school and from about 24% to 30% for those not in college, according to a Michigan News. Alcohol use disorder among both groups decreased by around half. 


“We’re encouraged by the significant decreases in alcohol use disorder—for both college and noncollege students,” said lead author Sean Esteban McCabe, director of the Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health at the U-M School of Nursing. “The prevalence of alcohol use disorder in both groups in 2018 was roughly half of what it was in 2002. We are excited to learn about these drops in disordered drinking, as alcohol-related consequences are one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity for young adults.” 


Southern California Addiction Treatment


If you are struggling with alcohol use disorder, please contact Hope By The Sea to learn more about our programs and services. We utilize evidence-based approaches to treating addiction and can help you achieve lasting recovery. Hope Starts Here!