Lots of people are finding the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic: some are enjoying working from home, cooking more, and trying out new hobbies. With that said, many, many more are struggling due to lack of employment, housing uncertainty, or risk from working on the front lines. Unfortunately, all that stress and extra time are making existing epidemics worse and jeopardizing the health of Americans in many different ways.
In the fight against COVID-19, we can’t forget the other threats that are affecting Americans all over the country. We have to remember to support people in their struggles, whether it’s paying for groceries or managing their addiction. Here are just some of the issues we’re facing during lockdowns and social distancing.
Is Addiction Increasing During Lockdown?
With people stuck inside their homes and anxious about what the future holds, it’s not too surprising that some are turning to substances to cope. The opioid crisis was a major concern even before COVID hit, and it may be even harder for people who struggle with all kinds of addictions to get help and maintain sobriety during the pandemic.
Pain pill addiction and alcoholism are very common and are extremely dangerous to a person’s health, well-being, relationships, and ability to work. These substances are easy to obtain and may lead to other addictions, like heroin abuse. It’s not surprising that people are using drugs and alcohol under the stress and isolation of lockdowns.
Addiction is very challenging to recover from, and many people who manage to maintain their sobriety rely on certain routines and support systems to do so, like support groups and therapy. Relapses have been common during the pandemic, setting many people back years. While new addictions may or may not be increasing, it’s clear that the pandemic has been challenging for those in recovery.
Unsafe Use of Medication
Over-the-counter and prescription medications help people manage their mental and physical health. But under circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic, misuse of medication is a real risk as people struggle to control their mental health. Unsafe use of medication can include taking the wrong dosage, mixing medications, or using medicines in ways not recommended by a medical professional.
People who take medications for mood disorders need to understand what’s safe and what isn’t and should communicate with their healthcare provider if they feel their medication isn’t working. During the pandemic, it has been difficult for some people to reach their doctors, causing some medication safety issues.
Obese Individuals At Risk During COVID-19
Obesity in America is an ongoing issue that influences a huge range of health problems. Many factors go into obesity rates, with issues like food insecurity and food deserts contributing significantly to rates in vulnerable communities. Those experiencing trouble getting healthy food or having a safe place to exercise during the pandemic may not have the support and resources they need to make healthy choices, further exacerbating the obesity epidemic.
Unfortunately, obesity also seems to be a risk factor in severe COVID-19 cases, contributing to severe respiratory systems. People who get sick with COVID-19 and also struggle with obesity may be more likely to be hospitalized and die from the disease.
Mental Health is a Major Issue During Lockdown
Lockdown isn’t good for our mental health. Even people who don’t ordinarily struggle with issues like depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and bipolar disorder are struggling to maintain their mental health during the pandemic. In addition to the stress of the pandemic itself, people are grappling with the economic fallout and do not have access to many of the resources they would use to cope during non-pandemic times.
Online mental health services have been important for many people during this time, as have healthy mindfulness activities like exercise, yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. But many people are still struggling and are not able to get the help they need to stay mentally healthy during the pandemic. Individual stressors, in addition to the societal impact of COVID-19, are taking their toll.
What We Can Do to Help
We can’t forget these epidemics, which are alive and well behind closed doors. If you want to help, then the best way to do so is to offer your support and your time. Call a friend who is struggling. Reach out to non-profits to see how you can help. Lend an ear. We may still be keeping our distance, but we need to keep our eyes and ears open for ways we can help.