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Addiction and Isolation in the Time of COVID


“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.”

― Herman Melville

A pandemic in the time of a pandemic, “COVID-19 and addiction are the two pandemics which are on the verge of collision causing a major public health threat.” (Dubey, 2020). During the Covid-19 pandemic there has been an alarming rise in substance use and overdoses. “The coronavirus disease is causing an insurmountable psychosocial impact on the whole of mankind. Marginalized communities, particularly those with substance use disorders (SUD), are particularly vulnerable to contract the infection and also likely to suffer from greater psychosocial burden.” (Dubey, 2020) This “psychosocial burden” is a cause for concern for those struggling in substance abuse and recovery.

While we all are suffering in some way right now, the most vulnerable of us, as always, are suffering the most. A major factor in the increase in drug and alcohol use is isolation. And, isolation is a major risk factor in relapse. What makes this so difficult is that we as a society are encouraged to isolate now more than ever. The conflict comes then while we are supposed to be isolating, as much as possible; we are now isolating those who need the support system the most. Since the invaluable support groups are not encouraged to meet in person, many 12 step and recovery groups have moved online. While positive that they are occurring, the social component of the groups is what draws people in. Online forums and zoom meetings are good, but they do not hold up to the quality, human connection, and positive influence of an in person group.

This world wide pandemic has been difficult to navigate for everyone, however we need to be extra aware of those who are struggling or who have struggled with substance abuse and addiction. I ask, please reach out to those who you know have struggled in the past or are struggling now. Many who may seem to “have it under control”  are under new stressors, challenging even the best of coping skills.  In this novel time we should be reaching out to a friend or family member and checking in on them. We can all use a caring person in our life right now, it just takes a minute to send a text or give someone a call.

For those reading this and are thinking ‘well, ll I have noticed I have been drinking more’ or have increased frequency of drug use, please consider this.  Many who may have historically been “just a social drinker” or “recreational user” may even have noticed an increase in their use. Reach out and talk to someone as well. This is an unprecedented time in our history, stress is at an all time high.  It will not hurt to reach out and talk to someone, maybe it can alleviate just a little of that stress that we are all feeling.


Dubey, M. J., Ghosh, R., Chatterjee, S., Biswas, P., Chatterjee, S., & Dubey, S. (2020). COVID-19 and addiction. Diabetes & metabolic syndrome, 14(5), 817–823. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsx.2020.06.008

Men and Substance Abuse


Addiction has no boundaries. Addiction impacts all groups of people from different socioeconomic status, races, ethnicities, and genders. However, while addiction is not a gender specific disease, it does impact men differently. Statistically men are more likely to be diagnosed with an addiction (Drugabuse.gov, 2016). Men face different health struggles associated with addiction. Along with health struggles relationships can be negatively impacted by addiction. While the factors are unknown as to why men are more likely to be diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, through treatment, hope is possible.

Men are more likely to use nearly all types of drugs, while women are less likely (Samhsa.gov, 2014). Men tend to engage in risky behavior at younger ages, which in turn could lead to more drug experimentation.  At a young age, drug use increases risk for lifelong dependency. While experimentation is not a certainty for lifelong abuse, it does increase the likelihood for addiction. Perhaps, this latter point leads to men being diagnosed more with substance abuse.

The negative impacts of drug and alcohol abuse in men are many, including the impact on health.  Men are at greater risk for negative health effects due to addiction; cirrhosis, pancreatitis and depression are frequent diagnoses associated with substance abuse.  (Drugabuse.gov. 2016).  To add to this, excessive alcohol consumption decreases testosterone levels, which in turn can cause erectile dysfunction, infertility, decreased strength and libido.  A man’s mental health is also negatively impacted by substance abuse. Men who struggle with depression and anxiety along with other mental health issues often turn to increased substance use which in turn only exacerbates their mental health issues.  Possible factors that impact this cycle are shame, guilt, and a feelings of low self-esteem.

Men can also feel the negative impact of substance abuse on their relationships. In general, those who are abusing substance(s) are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. This sexually risky behavior can include infidelity which can lead to STDs, and unwanted pregnancies.  To add, the role of father can also be negatively impacted by substance abuse. The lack of emotional availability as a father, the impediment of clear understanding and consciousness, and the distribution of resources towards drugs and alcohol, all negatively impact the family.

While there are many negative aspects to substance abuse in men, there is hope. Men do enter treatment more often, unfortunately often times via the criminal justice system. However, once in treatment there is opportunity to change. Through group treatment, men can find a community of people going through similar life experiences; though individual treatment men can find a confidential source of support and insight into their own addiction. The road to recovery is long and arduous, but it is worth it to not live with the negative consequences of addiction.

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Drugabuse.gov. 2016. Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/sex-gender-differences-in-substance-use. [Accessed 30 March 2018].

Samhsa.gov. 2014. Gender Differences in Primary Substance of Abuse across Age Groups. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/sr077-gender-differences-2014.pdf. [Accessed 30 March 2018].

Cornerstone Counseling Center of Chicago