Not Everyone is Free This Independence Day: Addiction and Mental Health Issues Abound Since Lockdowns
Because of the coronavirus's priority in news coverage, many people aren't aware of the effect this pandemic has had on substance abuse rates.
July 4, 2021
This 4th of July may be the most significant one in our lifetimes. Independence Day has always been a celebration of our country's freedom. But in 2021, this freedom has an entirely different meaning. We're finally free of the restrictions that have hampered our lives since the COVID 19 pandemic began nearly 18 months ago. But now, over half of the United States population has received at least one of the two vaccine shots, marking a major turning point of immunity. And with this has come the much-needed freedom we've been craving.
Many states have now dropped mask mandates and social distancing ordinances for those who are vaccinated, allowing people to gather once again and celebrate holidays. Even the President, Joe Biden, is planning a barbecue on the front lawn of the White House for over 100 guests.
This means that people will be coming out to celebrate and gathering in groups for the first major holiday since New Year's 2020. And they will be partying.
This should seem like a good thing. But, this holiday, the results could be tragic in a way that has nothing to do with a virus. Because of the coronavirus's priority in news coverage, many people aren't aware of the effect this pandemic has had on substance abuse rates. The CDC reported that 81,230 overdose deaths occurred in the United States from June 2019 through May 2020, which encapsulated the initial phase of the pandemic. This was the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in 12 months. These same statistics have not yet been compiled for the year ending May 2021, but many people fear we'll see an even larger increase.
The stressors that have come along with the COVID 19 pandemic have been attributed to causing the extremely increased rates of substance use, suicide, and other mental health issues we've seen since early 2020. And now that many of these have been alleviated, one would hope that these rates will decrease again. But sadly, a key characteristic of addiction is that the user cannot maintain sobriety despite attempts to cut back or stop using.
If you're not struggling with addiction, you can help your fellow American by keeping an eye out. There will certainly be people who are visibly intoxicated, and they may need help. This could be a stranger who needs a cab or a close friend who you see has relapsed or began using some substance. If you see concerning behavior, try not to be accusatory or condescending. Some people have gone through extremely difficult times over the last year and a half, and we may have no idea. This 4th of July is an excellent time to use our newfound freedoms to demonstrate understanding and help those who have been struggling with isolation.
Michael Leach has spent most of his career as a health care professional specializing in Substance Use Disorder and addiction recovery. He is a regular contributor to the healthcare website Addicted.org and a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant.