Addiction Outbreak

Keridwen CorneliusNovember 18, 2020
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Illustration by Angelina Aragon
Illustration by Angelina Aragon

Substance abuse is soaring due to COVID-19, but safe support is available.

COVID-19 has devastated many businesses, but one sector that’s not suffering is online alcohol sales, which saw a 477 percent spike this April over the previous year. Many people are trying to drown their sorrows and stress in booze and drugs, and it’s no wonder.

The prevalence of anxiety disorder is three times greater in 2020 than in 2019, and the prevalence of depressive disorder is four times greater, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In June, 40 percent of adult Americans admitted they struggled with mental health issues or substance abuse related to the pandemic.

One silver lining is that some people who were fighting addiction before the pandemic have actually improved during the “great pause” of 2020, says Dr. Saul G. Perea, chief medical officer of Terros Health, a Valleywide mental health care company. “Patients who are doing well seem to have positively responded to slowing down their lives. For them, stress appears to be more manageable as they pause, reflect and carve out more time for themselves, generally in self-care activities, attending therapeutic groups and connecting with family and friends.”

Patients whose substance abuse has worsened often live alone and feel overwhelmed by uncertainties and the intense emptiness of isolation, Perea says. Often, this is compounded by their reluctance to seek in-person treatment, group therapy and support from friends and family because they are worried about coronavirus infection.

In such cases, Perea recommends telemedicine, which “offers significant benefits, including the comfort of receiving services from home,” he says. “For many patients, telemedicine sessions have improved their treatment attendance and compliance, as well as their ability to trust the process of disclosing information to their providers in a more forthcoming way.”

If you or someone you love is suffering from substance use, you can contact Terros Health (602-685-6000,, Stonewall Institute Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center (602-362-8196,, Vogue Recovery Center (877-420-1669, and Addiction Recovery Centers (855-910-5918,

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