INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Alcohol and drug addiction remain critical public health issues, but the national problem has faded in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
In an interview with CSPAN on May 30, Dr. Caleb Alexander, professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, on how the pandemic is affecting the addiction crisis.
“Before the pandemic, we were in the middle of the worst overdose epidemic in our country's history and lost more than 60,000 people a year from overdose. None of this changed … when the pandemic started, ”Alexander, also a practicing internist, told CSPAN.
It's as bad as ever, he said, explaining why the corona virus is aggravating the current addictive landscape.
Addicts are more susceptible to the virus due to factors related to both COVID-19 and addiction.
Drug and alcohol addicts tend to have lower incomes, live in poorer areas or in homeless shelters. These factors are also associated with COVID-19 infection, said Alexander.
Many addicts also have so-called comorbidities, which means that they also suffer from chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. People with chronic illnesses are more susceptible to the coronavirus.
Another component is the collapse of our current health care system, which has been radically disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The virus "undermined the treatment system we rely on to supply the millions of Americans who suffer from … addiction."
Self-isolation can also trigger a relapse or addiction.
Regarding recovery, addicts need personal interaction with a close network of trusted friends and family members. Personal support is more effective than digital support, according to a report published in Clinical Psychology Review . Social distancing makes this difficult when the world is now dependent on Skype, FaceTime or other digital platforms to stay connected.
As of 2018, 14.4 million adults in the United States suffer from a alcohol abuse disorder . 23 million adults admit to struggling with drug abuse .
In Indiana, 16.6% of adults report having a problem with alcohol excesses . Binge drinking is defined as men who occasionally have five or more drinks. For women there are more than four drinks.
Thirteen percent of Hoosiers 18 years and older admit to using opioids compared to the national average of 11%. The average heroin use in the same age group in Indiana is also above the national average.