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COVID-induced isolation has impacted mental health and substance use disorder

EAGLE RIVER — Among the many topics discussed at the May 27 Mental Health Presentation in Eagle River was the significant spike in mental illness and substance abuse. In that regard, the Western Upper Peninsula is a microcosm of the nation as a whole.

Jennifer Anderson, a state certified peer recovery coach with the Phoenix House, in Calumet Township, briefly discussed the correlation between substance abuse and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This past year has been horrible for isolation and increase in alcohol and drug use,” she told the presentation audience . Among her tasks, Anderson serves as a guide to initiate, achieve and sustain longterm recovery from addiction. The correlation has received much study nationwide.

Dual Diagnosis.org published a report on May 25, 2021 that stated:

“Mental illness and substance abuse are directly or indirectly connected to the other with adverse effects to the user. Why might a person be drinking heavily when they are mentally ill? Neither the degree of correlation between the two terms is disputed by any informed party. The association between mental illness and substance abuse is apparent to the layman and visible to the professional. There are different types of mental illnesses with varying degrees of severity.”

New Hampshire Business Review on April 28 reported that according to a study by New York University’s School of Global Public Health, a major side effect of COVID-19 has been increased drinking among people with anxiety and depression, but particularly among those 40 and younger. Since COVID, drinking rose by 40 percent in people age 40 and under with anxiety or depression, by 30 percent in those age 41 to 59, and by roughly 20 percent among those age 60 and older, according NYU’s report. Those trends that are now straining detox clinics and ballooning requests for alcohol treatment programs.

The Business Review went on to state that as stay-at-home orders began in some U.S. states as a mitigation strategy for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmission, Nielsen reported a 54% increase in national sales of alcohol for the week ending March 21, 2020, compared with one-year before; online sales increased 262% from 2019. Three weeks later, the World Health Organization warned that alcohol use during the pandemic may potentially exacerbate health concerns and risk-taking behaviors.

Dual Diagnosis.org’s report, Connection between Substance Use Disorder and Mental Illness, authored by Ben Lesser, stated similar findings to those reported by the Review:

“A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) published in the journal Science Focus,” Lesser reported, “a relationship between mental illness and the consumption of addictive substances was demonstrated. It was observed that individuals suffering from a mental health disorder were more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, including:

– 40% of cigarettes in the market.

– 44% of cocaine.

The NBER report also states, Lesser reported, that people with medically diagnosed psychological disorders consume alcohol and other drugs through addiction at some situation in their everyday lives, with the following proportion:

– 68% of cigarettes

– 69% of alcohol

– 84% of cocaine

“It’s common knowledge that substance abuse and mental disorders go hand in hand,” Lesser continued. “Different combinations of causes and symptoms can occur, each leading to its own set of treatment options and Dual Diagnosis treatments.”

Authors Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., reported, in their September 2020 helpguide.org article, “Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Mental Health,” that it can be difficult to identify a dual diagnosis.

“It takes time to tease out what might be a mental health disorder and what might be a drug or alcohol problem,” the article states. “The signs and symptoms also vary, depending upon both the mental health problem and the type of substance being abused, whether it’s alcohol, recreational drugs, or prescription medications. For example, the signs of depression and marijuana abuse could look very different from the signs of schizophrenia and alcohol abuse.”

In co-occurring disorders, the article continues, both the mental health issue and the drug or alcohol addiction have their own unique symptoms that may get in the way of your ability to function at work or school, maintain a stable home life, handle life’s difficulties, and relate to others. To make the situation more complicated, the co-occurring disorders also affect each other. When a mental health problem goes untreated, the substance abuse problem usually gets worse. And when alcohol or drug abuse increases, mental health problems usually increase too.

Co-occurring substance abuse problems and mental health issues are more common than many people realize. According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

– Roughly 50% of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse.

– 37% of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.

– Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29% abuse alcohol or drugs.

“While substance abuse problems and mental health issues don’t get better when they’re ignored–in fact, they are likely to get much worse–it’s important to know that you don’t have to feel this way,” the article reports. “There are things you can do to conquer your demons, repair your relationships, and get on the road to recovery. With the right support, self-help, and treatment, you can overcome a co-occurring disorder, reclaim your sense of self, and get your life back on track.”

In the local area, one of those things might involve the Phoenix House, in Calumet Township.

The Phoenix House provides both residential and outpatient services for addiction recovery. The residential services program is provided to males, 18 years of age and older, who suffer from alcohol and drug abuse and need a safe, structured environment to focus on their recovery. Our residential facility assists consumers with substance abuse treatment, life skills development, medical needs, psychological and spiritual growth. Outpatient treatment program provides adults, 18 years of age and older, who are looking to address their alcohol or drug problems with more flexibility and in a less structured environment. Outpatient programs allow patients to address their substance abuse on a weekly basis while continuing with work, school, or other life obligations.

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