Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a progressive, chronic condition. There is no cure for it, and the only way to ensure recovery from it is complete abstinence. For most people struggling with addiction, there are no half-way solutions.
I know of people who developed addiction later on in life, and I know of people who felt they were addicted right from the get-go. Many components make someone more susceptible to addiction—genetics being one of them. But other factors such as environmental circumstances, trauma, or stress can also contribute to the development of SUD.
This is why I think it’s especially important to be mindful of our situation during COVID-19—we are all living in varied stressful circumstances. We might not even be aware of how much this is affecting us—I mean how difficult staying at home can be? I’ve seen a lot of jokes on-line about people picking up drinking as a way to relieve boredom; it is no secret that our alcohol consumption has increased drastically ever since the beginning of the pandemic. The sales of alcohol have gone up by 50 per cent in March compared to last year (one report noted a 300 percent increase from January to March). People who were never at risk of developing an addiction are now at risk. Even without genetic makeup, early trauma, or any other predispositions, human beings can get hooked. What starts as a relatively reliable way to relieve stress can turn into a habit that can, in turn, become a full-blown addiction.
I know that I’m talking about a more extreme scenario, but it’s crucial to be aware of dangers. Consider this: only a small proportion of people die from COVID-19… but people still die. We are worried enough about it that we put the entire world into house arrest.
Addiction is complicated, but it’s also quite simple. You pair alcohol with things that you never needed it for, and suddenly it turns out you can’t get by without it. Where you dealt with anxiety by going for a walk or calling a friend, now you use a sedative (alcohol) to calm yourself down. Do it frequently enough, and soon, anxiety will equal having to reach for a drink. Similarly, with sleep—using alcohol to knock yourself out will soon be the only way you’ll be able to get some rest. Of course, alcoholic sleep is not real rest as booze tends to inhibit REM sleep; the time where your body and mind truly rests.
Maybe you have someone in your life who is dangerously close to the point of no return with their substance use. They haven’t entirely gone over the edge yet, but they are getting close. If you have experience with recovery, this might be the time to speak to them gently about it and share your own experience. If you don’t have experience, find someone who does. You can absolutely “teach” yourself to become someone dependent on substances to cope with life. It’s a very fragile time for everyone, so watch for those around you who might be at risk. It’s essential to take care of each other as we all go through the crisis—now more than ever. And let’s all do it without a drink.
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