Prevalence of Drug Abuse during Pandemic


Shuang Liang

Oakland Community College

                                    Prevalence of Drug Abuse during Pandemic

According to findings by UNODC, 269 million individuals abuse drugs as of 2018. The report records a 30 percent increase from 2009. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the drug abuse sector significantly (“COVID-19’s far reaching impact on global drug abuse”, 2020). The restricted movement has resulted in a scarcity of drugs hence hiked prices. The accessibility of drugs has drastically reduced due to difficulty in the penetration to the global market. The crisis has affected the global economy in return leading to societal struggles. COVID-19 has triggered new drug trafficking channels with an increase in shipment via mail. As a result of the decrease in supply and high costs of accessibility of various drugs, addicts are opting to substitute the unavailable drugs with the readily available substances. For instance, sedatives and alcohol abuse are on the rise during the pandemic period. Harmful delivery methods like injections have been implemented to cater to the addict’s needs. Drug abuse has adopted new trends.

Service engagement trends have changed in the pandemic restrictions period. The abuse of drugs has increased. The modes of purchasing drugs have reported an increase in social platform engagements.  Social networking sites have been reported as the primary way of planning the purchase of drugs (Mignon, 2014). The use of ecstasy pills has increased in the previous year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The price of purchasing the capsules and frequency has increased according to previous studies.  The Covid-19 pandemics have had a significant influence on drug addiction and abuse. Many institutions offering services to drug users worldwide shut down during the pandemic in March 2020. Safety and health precautions to control the pandemic led to remote working, generating fear and anxiety among victims. Professionals handling drug addiction in the social psychology sector should understand the theoretical frameworks in structuring dysfunctional cognitions. Psychologist implements drug treatment services by determining the relationship between the behavior of the addicts and the actual situation. Social psychology aims at dealing with dysfunctional reasons that lead to dependence or abuse of drugs. Relapse prevention is an integral part of drug abuse treatment that promotes motivational strategies and modification of behavior.

 Reports have indicated a rise in substance abuse and related harm. Scientists and social psychologists globally express concerns predict a disaster due to reduction in harm reduction services. Isolation during the pandemic in developing studies shows the risks associated with drug abuse and unsuccessful recovery efforts. Lower supervision levels have accelerated home drug abuse. Poverty and drug addiction are intertwined. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased poverty. The increase in unemployment levels and the job insecurities experienced during the pandemic have affected different families’ lifestyles. Efforts towards adapting to a jobless life and new hardships have resulted in drug abuse. Substance abuse has severe social psychological impacts. The current rising trends of drug abuse include cognitive enhancers and new psychoactive substances (Hartz, 2014).  The social isolation and limited access to detoxification facilities caused additional psychological distress, pushing drug addicts toward alternative psychotropic drugs, possibly through illegal online marketplaces. An international overview of the new trends of drug abuse during the current COVID-19 pandemic and the related health risks have been experienced at varying levels. 

The closing of country borders affected the drug routes of shipping and selling in different parts of the world, leading to scarcity of classic drugs. Safety and health restrictive measures internationally adopted by several countries to combat the pandemic made it necessary to close all the usual recreational settings in which stimulant drugs are commonly abused. Drug abuse and addiction can result in short and long-term effects. The impact depends on the type of drug and the health background of an individual. Short-term effects of drug abuse include impacts on appetite levels, an increased heart rate, and loss of coordination. Misuse or abuse of drugs may result in insomnia—a temporary sense of euphoria and a change in cognitive capability. People struggling with drug addiction experience social issues such as relationship problems, changes in appearance like weight loss, and the inability to stop drug misuse (Hartz, 2014).  Drug abuse impacts a person’s academic and work performance as well as personal hygiene. Drug addiction over an extended period of the term leads to anxiety, depression, paranoia, hallucinations, panic disorders, and increased aggression. Long terms effects of drug addiction affect learning, concentration, and the person’s memory. Chronic drug abuse may result in various health issues. Drugs can cause cardiovascular conditions, respiratory health issues: kidney damage, and liver disease.

 Over the past decade, social psychologists have made significant progress in using cognitive and behavioral drug abuse theories. The cognitive theory argues that substance dependence is a sign of the interaction between expectations, values, behaviors, and emotions. Social relationships, biological and physiological factors, as well as cultural factors impact, affect drug misuse. On the other hand, the behavioral theory states that drugs’ dependence or addiction is primarily based on social learning and modeling. Psychologists need to implement successful treatment methods for drug addiction. An effective drug addiction treatment plan entails behavioral therapy. Individual experiencing drug abuse requires guidelines on how to cope and develop problem-solving traits. Medications are vital in helping the victim with withdrawal symptoms. Group therapy offers people suffering from drug abuse to share and exchange psychological ways of recovering under a psychologist’s guidance health (Bertrand & Pan, 2013). Group therapy has therapeutic advantages to the members like identification, affiliation and support.  Young adults and children should involve parents and the whole facility during the drug addiction treatment process. Family dynamics issues should be addressed to facilitate the completion of an effective treatment.

Involving parents promotes better response in terms of mental health (Bertrand & Pan,   2013).  Additional medical care is an integral part of addressing drug addiction issues like unemployment, change in lifestyle, and other negative factors resulting from the pandemic. An effective drug abuse treatment considers an appropriate duration of therapy. Standard addiction treatment takes between three months to get a good outcome. The therapy entails psychological, physiological, social, and behavioral aspects of the drug addiction. To prevent relapse, addicts should get behavioral therapy to encourage participation in the drug addiction treatment program. Psychologists ensure the addicts develop skills and strategies to reduce and deal with the dire or craving to have the drug. Appropriate drug addiction treatment addresses different aspects of medicine. The main aim of drug treatment services is to reduce or stop the use of drugs. Addicts use medication to detox to prevent agitation and seizures addict: legal concerns, stress management, communication, parenting, relationship issues, and vocational matters.

 International research has indicated drug abuse, and addiction is common among young people.  According to the World Health Organization, the European Union records the highest number of alcohol abuse, with a fifth of the population from 15 years and above engaging in alcohol intake ( Zaami, Marinelli & Vari, 2020).  The report indicates that the region record heavy episodic drinking referring to alcohol consumption of five or more drinks in one event: meaning the population consumes at least 50 g of alcohol weekly .Marijuana is a commonly abused drug confirmed through research. Restrictions set by various state governments have led to the increase of drug abuse and addiction. The spread of Covid-19 globally led to a global pandemic that has posed a significant threat to the health sector. As a result, the usual drug abuse patterns throughout the world experienced a rise in house drug abuse. Social fields have been affected by the pandemic restrictions as a result of the social distancing implementation. Changes in people’s lifestyles to contain the outbreak have led to anxiety among a large population. The pandemic has resulted in job insecurities, unfamiliar lifestyles as well as different ways of handling relationships. People with mental health issues and other psychological problems may have experienced worsening their conditions, leading to deviant social behaviors linked to drug abuse.

Social psychology dramatically contributes to the development of theories on drug abuse and addiction. Learning theories refer to a set of social psychological principles that impact understanding the reasons for addiction and informing intervention strategies.  Social learning theories explain how people learn how to think, act and feel from the surrounding circumstances.  Learning occurs in either instrumental learning or classical conditioning (Hartz, 2014). The Classical conditioning principle defines how an environment triggers a person’s desire or craving from a substance from inside the body. According to Pavlov, a neutral stimulus can be transformed into a learning experience stimulus. Based on the behavioral and cognitive theories, therapists work together with patients in determining the signs and formulating new behavior to avoid drug misuse. Particular brain parts are triggered by ideas suggesting the ways of issuing the drug.  The stimulus of craving results from the touching, seeing, tasting, smelling, and hearing senses.  Craving may also result from internal conditions such as depression and anxiety linked to former reasons for taking drugs.

Operant conditioning theory entails punishments and rewards.  Contingency management increases adherence to the drug abuse treatment sessions.

Patients undergoing drug misuse treatment are motivated through prizes to reduce and abstinence from drug abuse.  The rewards are usually in favor of the addict’s things, increasing chances of drug abstinence. In some scenarios, addicts get vouchers in the form of tickets and money (Mignon, 2014). Behavioral therapists aim at generating a favorable outcome by diverting the attention of the addict to other things.    Weekly urine samples are collected to determine the presence or absence of drugs in the urine. In case the results of the tests find no drug present, there is consistent rewarding for a lifestyle free from drugs. Operant conditioning theory is practical, especially for cocaine and alcohol abuse. Contingency management increases the period a patient engages in the treatment and compliance to the program. Observing the reinforcement an individual gets from using a drug may lead to learning the drug’s use. One may use a drug and enjoy the state it brings, referred to as favorable reinforcement. Contrary to it, another person may experience low mood or anxiety after using the substance. The individual, in this case, experiences negative reinforcement.

The observational social learning theory explains that people learn to imitate a particular trait due to others in the same environment. Expectancies are a set of social psychological principles for drug addiction. There are beliefs people gain on the impacts they get from using the drugs. People develop expectancies from movies, music, television, and social media, amongst other channels (Mignon, 2014).  Children are shown how to gain both negative and positive expectancies about the outcome of drug abuse and addiction. Information processing theories explain how drug abuse can impact how a person perceives information. Drug abuse influences the way people store data and how the information is passed into the long-term memory that they may need to retrieve for the future. Reports from research conducted in the past indicate that the things learned by a person in a sober state may not be remembered under the influence of drugs. Clinical literature on addictive personality states that an individual has a different character due to drug abuse.   The observation argues that drug addiction leads to a personality disorder.

In the cognitive theory, early in the treatment program, the clinician researches the potential risk for relapse. With the clinician’s guidance, the patient identifies intrapersonal, interpersonal, physiological, and environmental factors that determine the suitable treatment for the addict. Behavioral and cognitive strategies in enhancing self-efficiency and effective recovery strategies are uniquely developed to suit different addict’s statuses ( Hartz, 2014). Techniques to build adaptive thoughts and mental shaping help the addict make sober decisions when posing a danger. Social-cultural approaches such as residential treatment facilities where addicts are shifted to a drug-free surrounding to socialize and attend family or group therapy.

Community reinforcement has an impact on addiction recovery. Society surrounding an addict reinforces the favorable option of resisting drug abuse. The community’s contribution promotes the success of a recovery program for addicts wherein an inpatient or outpatient setting. The community is a long-term solution to the abstinence and treatment of drug addiction. The support and contribution given to addicts determine the effectiveness of the treatment. Relapse prevention training is necessary for patients it substance-related disorders. Surveys have linked drug abuse to people with anxiety and psychotic issues compared to the general population. (Hartz 2014). Despite the absence of proof and exact estimates on the relationship between mental health disorders and drug abuse, a consensus indicates a strong attachment between personality disorders, moods, and anxiety. In the social psychology field, various approaches have been suggested to understand drug addiction. Self-medication theories, for instance, argue that a person uses drugs to avoid negative feelings. Underlying causes of pain mediated is attributed to adverse experiences that result in post-traumatic stress disorder, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects—limited trafficking. The illegal market has led to modifications in drug use patterns, posing severe risks of drug substitution, contamination, and combination with dangerous substances. Short periods of loneliness and isolation negatively impact mental and physical wellbeing. Feeling isolated resolves to anger, anxiety, and in some scenarios sleeping disorders.

Relapse prevention is a self-commitment program aimed at improving the maintenance stage of habitual changes.  The schedule varies from one addict to another, depending on the individual’s participation in changing habits.  Behaviors and beliefs leading to drug abuse should be explored to prevent relapse (Hollon & Beck, 2013).  To avoid drug abuse, professionals help patients identify the motivation state of the patient. For an effective relapse prevention strategy, ensure you formulate a sheet to balance the pros and cons of using the drug. Psychologists identify situations that increase the probability of relapse to avoid the occurrence. Lifestyle changes are associated with significant contributions to the addicts. Having the same peers and surrounding promotes the same attitudes and traits, increasing the chances of relapse. Agenda setting, however, in the change of daily activities promotes the cessation of drug misuse. Personal issues during the pandemic have been the primary cause of the rise in drug abuse and misuse—specialists in social psychology explore interpersonal conflicts to promote success in preventing a relapse.

Substance abuse is a major issue in the modern society. The pandemic has accelerated the numbers of people in substance abuse. Individuals overwhelmed by the current affairs globally have switched to drug abuse. Efforts have been put to enable government fight the exposing factors and treatment of drug abuse. Different state governments have set aside funds to implement effective psychological treatment for addicts.


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