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Increased Alcohol & Substance Use in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Examining COVID-19’s Effect on Alcohol Consumption and Drug Use

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of Americans to stay indoors to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. However, the combination of stay-at-home orders, stress, and isolation has created a recipe for increased alcohol consumption and drug abuse, and data proves just that.

For instance, Nielson reports that alcohol sales increased 22% for the week ending on March 28, 2020, compared to the same week in 2019. Sales for the week ending on March 21, 2020, were up 55% compared to the year prior.

ISWR reports that the value of alcohol e-commerce would increase by 42% across 10 core markets, totaling $24 billion. For context, alcohol e-commerce value in those 10 markets grew 11% in 2019.
sales are projected to reach $5.6 billion in 2020, a $3 billion increase from 2019. Although data on whether or not the projections above occurred is not yet available, the significant projections alone speak for themselves.

Certain types of substance abuse have also increased during the coronavirus pandemic. After analyzing 500,000 urine samples, Millennium Health reported an increase in the following types of drug use between March and April of 2020:

  • A 10% increase in cocaine use
  • A 13% increase in heroin use
  • A 20% increase in methamphetamine use
  • A 32% increase in non-prescribed fentanyl

With all of this eye-opening data in mind, it will benefit you to understand the potential reasons for those numbers and projections being as high as they are. Now that you know people are drinking more alcohol and abusing certain drugs more than they have in 2019, let’s review some possible reasons for such actions:

  • Crises/disasters: Disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, officials from the Institute suggest that the stress and anxiety associated with these devastating events can “increase drinking and exacerbate symptoms of alcohol use disorder.”
  • Stress: It comes as no surprise that people’s stress levels are extremely high as they navigate the crisis that has become our new reality. Millions of Americans are unemployed, working and learning from home, and trying to find peace of mind. Countless others are sick or have tragically died from COVID-19. To “take the edge off,” people may turn to alcohol and illegal substances as a result.
  • Anxiety: The future of the pandemic is uncertain. When will it end? How long will masks and social distancing be enforced? Will schools and businesses open in 2021? Every day brings new questions with no answers and staggering data about the devastating effects of COVID-19, which can lead to heightened feelings of anxiety. People who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table are no exception. Ultimately, numerous Americans are suffering for different reasons yet have a similar solution to their anxiety: Alcohol and drugs.
  • Social isolation: Humans are wired as social beings. It’s our biology. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has stripped people away from the typical social interactions that have become so familiar to them. Social distancing, business closures, and stay-at-home orders may exacerbate the disorders that people suffered from prior to the pandemic. The lack of social interaction may worsen or produce feelings of depression, anxiety, rejection, and loss of community, which may explain why many people have relied on alcohol and drugs to help ease their pain.
  • Boredom: With everything (or so it seems) being shut down, people have nothing to do. There is not much to experience besides the outdoors, grocery stores, and some retailers, to name some examples. Therefore, many are coping with their boredom by consuming booze and using controlled substances.

The Possible Consequences of Coping

While it can be argued that increased alcohol consumption and substance abuse are justified and understandable due to COVID-19, the criminal justice system will say otherwise. Law enforcement officers may administer drug charges in addition to alcohol-related accusations such as minor in possession, DUI, and disorderly conduct despite the circumstances of our nation. If you are on the receiving end of these criminal charges, do not panic. Your case may potentially be defendable with the help of our experienced Santa Barbara criminal defense attorneys at Appel & Morse.

To learn more about your legal options, contact us at (805) 467-6060!