In Florida and across the country, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused substance use and mental health concerns to increase. According to a survey by The Recovery Village, 78% of South Florida residents reported that the pandemic had impacted their mental health. Roughly 60% of respondents did not have these mental health issues before. Additionally, 44% of those surveyed reported an increase in alcohol use, and 48% reported increased drug use. Though there may be relief on the horizon, many are continuing to struggle. Recent statistics show that drug use and overdose rates are rapidly increasing in the state. Drug Usage and Overdose Rise in South Florida Florida has been in the midst of an opioid epidemic for years. In 2018, around 68% of Florida overdose deaths involved opioids, accounting for 3,189 of 4,698 reported overdose deaths. Now, developing research points to the COVID-19 pandemic as a cause for skyrocketing drug overdose deaths. Across the state, overdose deaths in the first eight months of 2020 were 43% higher than those in the same period a year earlier. Between March and June, Central Florida saw a 70% increase when compared to the same period in 2019. Project Opioid expects that an average of 55 Floridians will have died of an overdose each day in 2020. In 2019, this average was 35 people per day. The Pandemic’s Impact on Mental Health and Substance Use The rising rates of substance use and overdose throughout the U.S. are linked to many different factors. Perhaps the largest factor is the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on mental health. It’s caused many Americans to struggle with financial instability, isolation and general uncertainty, all of which have led to feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. In turn, more and more people are using drugs or alcohol to cope with mental health concerns, which creates a higher risk for addiction. Experts are also seeing higher rates of relapse among people in recovery, which may be caused by a lack of in-person support, unemployment, increased free time, boredom, stress and similar factors. Unemployment alone can have a huge influence: Unemployed people are 87% more likely to drink heavily and 65% more likely to use illicit drugs. Additionally, an analysis of urine tests between March and May found a 32% increase in illicit fentanyl use, a 20% increase in meth use and a 10% increase in cocaine use. While it’s important to combat the pandemic through measures like social distancing and mask mandates, the nation’s mental health must also be addressed. Florida and many other parts of the country have been in an opioid epidemic for years, and the nation may soon find itself in a storm of three major crises: addiction, mental health and COVID-19. Getting Help While the COVID-19 pandemic may become less severe in the coming months due to the recently released vaccine, it will likely take much longer for Americans to overcome the impact on their mental health. However, the pandemic has caused a rise in telehealth services, increasing access to mental health care and allowing more people to find life-saving treatment through their insurance. The Recovery Village at Baptist Health offers a teletherapy app that connects clients to licensed therapists and addiction counselors. With this helpful service, you can receive treatment for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a smartphone, tablet or laptop to begin your recovery journey. We also provide a full continuum of care delivered by a multidisciplinary team of experts in our state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility. Contact us today to learn more about how our evidence-based treatment programs can work well for your situation. SourcesNational Institute on Drug Abuse. “Florida: Opioid-Involved Deaths and Related Harms.” April 3, 2020. Accessed December 21, 2020. Santich, Kate. “Central Florida drug OD deaths up 70% during COVID, report shows.” Orlando Sentinel, December 2, 2020. Accessed December 21, 2020. Syed, Kanwal; Zhou, Naitian. “Pandemic’s toll on mental health accentuated in cities.” NBC News, November 23, 2020. Accessed December 21, 2020. Weiner, Stacy. “COVID-19 and the opioid crisis: When a pandemic and an epidemic collide.” Association of American Medical Colleges, July 27, 2020. Accessed December 21, 2020. Florida Health. “COVID-19 Vaccines in Florida.” Accessed December 21, 2020. Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.