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The Pandemic Increases Prescription Drug Use, but Can Lead to More Substance Abuse

Nickolaus Hayes By Nickolaus Hayes | Last Updated: 19 September 2023
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During the pandemic, more people are taking drugs for anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Coronavirus health concerns, job loss, social isolation, returning to work, or looking for a job, force many Americans to turn to medication. Prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants, and sleep medication have risen during the pandemic. The health research firm IQVIA released data saying the number of anti-anxiety drug prescriptions rose 10.2%, and anti-depressant prescriptions rose 9.2%. The Food and Drug Administration placed Zoloft on its drug shortage list, noting an inability to support the monthly demand.

The global situation has taken a toll on every American, and more than one-third of Americans say the pandemic is having a serious impact on their mental health. Unfortunately, using prescription drugs to cope with anxiety, stress, or depression does run the risk of dependency, misuse, and addiction. Experts within the treatment industry fear there will be a surge of people asking for help for substance abuse issues. Simply because people are returning to work, does not mean these problems disappear. There should be concern among employers and treatment professionals, especially with being able to offer the right support, such as through employee assistance programs. Legal drugs such as alcohol, marijuana; in some states, and prescription narcotics have the potential to do more damage over the long-term then illegal street drugs.

The problems tend to go unnoticed, and because of social isolation and the lockdowns, it is impossible to accurately know how many Americans were struggling with potential substance abuse. Approximately 66% of the population in the United States use prescription drugs, which is more than 131 million people per Health Policy Institute. However, not every person who uses prescription drugs develops dependence, addiction, or misuses them. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, roughly one million people aged 12 and older misused prescription stimulants for the first time. Also, about 1.2 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription tranquilizers for the first time, and over 250,000 people in 2018 misused prescription sedatives for the first time.

The most popular anti-anxiety medication are benzodiazepines, which include brands like Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin. In 2018, an estimated 5.4 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription benzodiazepines, which is two percent of the population. It would be neglectful to ignore the potential long-term ramifications of drastic increases in prescription drug use. Families, employers, friends, and treatment providers need to be aware of any indication of misuse. The psychological impact that Americans felt during the lockdowns does not go away and will follow them into the workplace and become part of the family dynamic.

These issues require proper help, counseling, employee assistance programs, and having an awareness of the future impact of increased spending on prescription drugs. We have become a pill culture, and there is a medication developed for every problem physically and psychologically. However, we seem to forget or neglect the impact this culture has on our society and the potential it has creating more problems with substance abuse.




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Nickolaus Hayes has been working with Drug Rehab Services for the past ten years. Over the past 15 years, he has remained connected to helping people who have been struggling with addiction. He first started working as an intake counselor at a drug rehabilitation center in 2005. During the five years as an intake counselor, he was able to help hundreds of people find treatment. Nickolaus was also fortunate to be able to work with professional interventionists, traveling across the country performing interventions. Over the many years being involved with Drug Rehab Services, he has been able to contribute through the written word. Nickolaus has seen first-hand what drugs and alcohol can do to a family and an addict. He remains dedicated to helping people stay informed about drugs and alcohol. Through the endless amount of information available on the internet, it is important to have current up-to-date facts about drug and alcohol abuse. His main focus is keeping the truth about drugs out there for everyone to access and read for themselves.