Drug Abuse During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Drug Abuse Drug Abuse During COVID

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have felt the impact of fear, frustration, and isolation.[1] As the pandemic waned, people were slowly able to go outside without masks and forget social distancing, thanks to vaccines. Even so, the damage has already been done. As a way of dealing with stress, people resorted to substance abuse to provide relief. Without the normalcy society would have afforded, people found unhealthy coping mechanisms that turned into bigger problems.

Fentanyl and Alcohol Misuse

Drug overdose deaths among teens rose sharply in 2020, from 492 in 2019 to 954 in 2020, with a continued rise into 2021. Remote learning and not being able to see their friends had a profound impact on teens’ mental health. Although substance abuse among teens decreased, the number of teens using dangerous drugs laced with fentanyl increased. In 2021, 77% of all teen overdose deaths could be traced back to fentanyl.[2]

Alcohol sales rose during the pandemic, with a 54% increase in March 2020 compared to the previous month. In 2020, there was a 14% overall increase in alcohol consumption compared to the previous year. Alcohol became more available due to some states allowing carry-out alcohol beverages in restaurants and other retailers. This, combined with amplified stressors, and minimal coping strategies, exacerbated the issue. This was a time when treatment centers and support groups closed.[3] Even some hospitals were not made available to people who needed treatment not COVID-19 related.

Alcohol consumption had its biggest impact among women. Tasked with disproportionate responsibilities such as “child care, home management, and children’s education”, the COVID-19 pandemic offloaded obligations, normally afforded to other people, onto them.[4] When children weren’t understanding their schoolwork due to remote learning, mothers had to step in and be the teachers. It was their stepping up that allowed many children to be able to continue school without interruption.

Dealing with Stress

Loneliness and confusion pushed people over the edge, and to seek out drugs that would ease their fears. These drugs were a go-to for people who had never experienced a shutdown of society. The word ‘community’ no longer resonated with people. Everyone was concerned about their health and well-being. Even family would not see each other out of fear of catching the virus, and in a worst-case scenario, death.

Vast unemployment drove people to seek out drugs such as alcohol and opioids. With nothing to do, and nowhere to go, drugs were a friend in the corner they could rely on. Unfortunately, this reliance grew to a point where they were dependent on it, leading to disastrous consequences.

Although cannabis and vaping have their own side effects, they are less dangerous than alcohol. Many people die from alcohol abuse, not so much so from weed.

As part of a study, respondents were asked about their substance use during the pandemic. Most people, at 42%, chose not to use substances such as alcohol, prescription drugs, recreational cannabis, medical cannabis, vaping, or illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Next in line at 40% was the amount of people who used alcohol. The next most common was prescription drugs, at 26%.[5]

Reliance on Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug abuse is linked to adolescents ages 10-14. Many adolescents were dealing with material hardship in the family, aside from the difficulty of remote learning.[6] Perhaps one or both of their parents lost their jobs, leading to a lack of financial resources. This weight bore down on teens and children who may have not been used to seeing their parents most of the day. Incidentally, nicotine use also increased during the pandemic. Adolescents, already victims of peer pressure, were now subject to the additional pressures of a pandemic, which led them to substance abuse.

Out of all workers, nurses were most impacted by prescription drug misuse. Prescription drug abuse is “when you take a medication for a reason other than why the doctor prescribed it.”[7] It is not taking the drug at your doctor’s direction. Perhaps because of their role as caretakers and healers during an unprecedented time in history, many felt that these drugs were a solution. As frontline workers, and those who may have been within the vicinity of COVID-19 patients, their work was difficult to say the least. The highest rates of prescription drug abuse were found among home health and hospice nurses at 19 percent, and nursing home nurses at 15.8 percent.[8]

Pandemic Lessons

This pandemic has had a profound impact on many people. The meaning of work changed dramatically, from being inside the office, to working remotely. The meaning of what was healthy also changed dramatically. From socializing and being with family and friends, to isolation, and as a result loneliness, to curb the spread of COVID-19. The frustration felt by many people to their situation was felt in the home. People employed unhealthy coping mechanisms partly due to a lack of knowledge surrounding the consequences of them. It was also due in part because people felt that they had no other choice.

Suffering From Drug Abuse After a Work-Related Injury? Contact us Today

Opioid and drug abuse will always be a problem. That does not mean people cannot be helped. At the Workplace Lawyers, our attorneys have successfully prosecuted cases involving clients with drug misuse. They know the impact substance abuse can have on the individual, as well as their family. The following case result highlights one of our efforts:

A construction worker who worked for Hi-Tech Exteriors was working on a roof when he slipped and landed on his truck. He landed on his feet and experienced severe pain, for which he was prescribed pain medications. He had been heroin drug-free for 3 months, but he overdosed, which unfortunately led to his death. A workers’ compensation dependency case was filed on behalf of his son. After hearing testimony from the physicians, the judge effectively ruled that the prescription of pain-killing drugs fentanyl, morphine, and oxycodone by the authorized treating physicians was sufficiently related to his work injury to entitle the child to dependency benefits. Craig Livingston won him an award of $415,558 plus the possibility up to the child, if he attends college, for an additional $193,600. The total potential to the child is $609,159.

These and other cases are a focal point for why we are proud to represent people who have suffered from opioid abuse. Our goal has always been to secure worker’s compensation benefits on behalf of individuals families who need it. We know you deserve representation you can have confidence in.  If you are a victim of opioid abuse and have suffered a work-related injury, call us today for a free consultation.


[1] McCrackin, C. (2022, April 6). Pandemic Claims Even More Lives Through Alcohol. Addiction Center. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.addictioncenter.com/news/2022/04/pandemic-claims-lives-through-alcohol/

[2] Chatterjee, R. (2022, April 12). Teen Drug Overdose Deaths Rose Sharply in 2020, Driven by Fentanyl-Laced Pills. NPR. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/04/12/1092309418/teen-drug-overdose-deaths-rose-sharply-in-2020-driven-by-fentanyl-laced-pills

[3] McCrackin, C. (2022, April 6). Pandemic Claims Even More Lives Through Alcohol. Addiction Center. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.addictioncenter.com/news/2022/04/pandemic-claims-lives-through-alcohol/

[4] Ibid.

[5] Agovino, T. (2021, October 2). The COVID-19 Crisis Has Brought Substance Abuse to Light. SHRM. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/all-things-work/pages/covid-19-brought-substance-abuse-to-light.aspx

[6] Franklin, M., & LaFee, S. (2021, August 24). How Adolescents Used Drugs During the COVID-19 Pandemic. UC Health – UC San Diego. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2021-08-24-how-adolescents-used-drugs-during-the-covid-19-pandemic.aspx

[7] Bruce, D. F., & Bhandari, S. (2022, March 17). Prescription Drug Abuse: Addiction, Types, and Treatment. WebMD. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/abuse-of-prescription-drugs

[8] Adams, K. (2022, January 28). Prescription Drug Misuse Up Among Nurses During Pandemic, Study Says. Becker’s Hospital Review. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/pharmacy/prescription-drug-misuse-up-among-nurses-during-pandemic-study-says.html

WorkplaceLawyers.com is the website for the workers compensation attorneys firm of Livingston, DiMarzio LLP Our team of attorneys is made up of New Jersey Mesothelioma Lawyers, NJ Workers Comp Lawyers, Employment Lawyers and Certified New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Attorneys.