The quarantine that many of us are experiencing as a result of the Coronavirus has had different effects on everybody, putting the global population through a serious challenge. But one vulnerable group in particular, people suffering from poor mental health, may suddenly find themselves struggling with substance abuse during this incredibly stressful and trying time.
If you find yourself turning to drugs and alcohol for support during quarantine, or have noticed such a pattern in a loved one, here are a few signs that there may be an issue with substance abuse at hand.
Note that substance abuse presents differently for every individual and with every substance, so this is not meant to be completely comprehensive but rather a quick reference tool you can apply with discernment and discretion.
That being said, here are some signs to look out for.
Increased Drug or Alcohol Use
While not necessarily indicative of a problem, significantly (or even moderately) consuming more drugs and/or alcohol than before may be a sign of potential substance abuse. Though it’s worth noting that this behavior may be occurring behind closed doors, so just because you don’t notice it does not mean it may not be happening.
While all of us are finding our social habits changing in light of quarantine, as is unavoidable, most people are making an effort to find alternative ways to connect with others ranging from texts, phone and video calls to online group hangouts and classes. If you find yourself or your loved one purposefully isolating from other people, it may be a sign of a problem. This is especially true if they do not respond to multiple efforts from others to reach out and connect.
One of the main signs of drug abuse is when a person is willing to put themselves at risk to obtain their drug or related paraphernalia. If you or your loved one are leaving the house, breaking quarantine, not following social distancing, or otherwise endangering their health in order to get their hands on their substance of choice, it can be a signal of a possible problem.
Depression, Hopelessness, and Apathy
From isolating us from our loved ones to breaking our routines to threatening our health and our livelihoods, Coronavirus has justifiably made people feel sad, stressed, and anxious. However, intense depression and even apathy in the face of what is going on in the world may be a sign that somebody’s mental health isn’t at its best.
Poor Sleep and Eating Habits
Quarantine requires all of us to take greater responsibility for our health, perhaps having nobody else to make us accountable for getting enough sleep, exercise, water, and healthy nourishment. It is a possible sign of substance abuse when people neglect their body’s basic needs, especially when they are additionally physically harming themselves by consuming an excess of alcohol or potentially dangerous drugs.
Irritability and Mood Swings
While a certain level of emotional volatility may be expected during a global crisis, extreme irritability and swings of mood from mania and elation to depression and pessimism are potential signals that somebody’s use of drugs and alcohol are (or are at risk for) crossing into the realm of abuse.
Combining Drugs and Alcohol
Being in search of an even more intense and lasting high, like the one that can be achieved by combining alcohol with other substances like prescription medication or hard drugs, can point to a person’s adaptation to their typical drug use and desire to chase stronger mind-altering effects. This is a common sign of substance abuse.
Increased Spending on Substances
If somebody is putting more money than they used to into buying drugs, alcohol, or drug paraphernalia such as spoons and needles, it can point to a possible substance abuse or dependence issue.
Changing Schedules and Rhythms
In the potential absence of school, work, and a social life to keep people to a normal daily schedule, those vulnerable to substance abuse may find themselves sleeping through the day and staying up all night drinking or doing drugs. They might have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, suffering from hangovers or blackouts. This can point to the possibility that their use of substances has shifted into an unhealthy place.
If you’ve noticed one or several of these signs in yourself or your loved ones, it is highly recommended to contact a mental health and/or substance abuse professional. This is as much of a health issue as any and deserves your attention even during these difficult times. We urge you to consider prioritizing you and your family’s health by seeking answers and treatment.