COVID-19’s Dramatic Impact on Substance Abuse

COVID-19’s Dramatic Impact on Substance Abuse

(BPT) – It may come as very little surprise, but the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a dramatic increase in demand for substance abuse and mental health care. The pandemic has generated a significant impact to the collective mental health of the U.S.:

  • The pandemic sparked an increase in substance use and first-time substance users.
  • Thirteen percent of adults report that they have new or increased substance use due to COVID-19 stress, with an additional 11 percent of adults reporting suicidal ideation.
  • The CDC’s National Vital Statistics System indicates that drug overdose deaths from Sept. 2019 through Aug. 2020 were at 88,295 predicted deaths – 19,000 more than the previous year (an increase of nearly 30 percent).

Naturally, the dramatic increase in demand for behavioral health and addiction treatment has stretched providers of such services to their brink. But NextGen Healthcare is leading the charge to address these challenges through its integrated healthcare platform and its NextGen Behavioral Health Suite, which provides effortless interoperability, and analytics-driven medical and behavioral health workflows implemented to treat those experiencing these disorders.

A Note about the Stigma of Mental Health Care

Unfortunately, the long-standing stigma associated with mental health conditions persists. The fact is it takes great strength to identify and acknowledge that we need help. Indeed, many are seeking assistance for these conditions. If you suffer from depression, anxiety or are struggling with addiction, you are not alone.

Nothing is more important than your health. Make sure to play an active role in maintaining it. Start with talking to your doctor about how you are feeling. Don’t hesitate to talk about the difficulties you are having. Your primary care physician is trained and able to assist with the issues you are experiencing. Inquire about the services your doctor’s office provides. You will find that some are set up to provide both physical care as well as mental health services and they may also offer the tools that make it easy for you to stay connected to your doctor’s practice. Through health information technology (HIT), doctors and patients are even able to stay connected virtually.

The next time you see your doctor, prepare a discussion list of topics:

  • Integrated care: What services does your doctor’s office provide? Are you able to see a mental health therapist at your doctor’s office? Mental and physical well-being are deeply connected, so treating both is important.
  • Online appointments: Can you schedule your own appointments online? Can you view your appointment history and/or modify existing appointments?
  • Virtual visits: Does the practice offer virtual video visits (i.e., telehealth) for situations that don’t require an in-person office visit?

With the rise in substance abuse over the pandemic, it is especially important to assess your current situation and ascertain if you may need help from a healthcare or behavioral health provider. The most important thing to remember is that help is available and that having this conversation with your physician will set you on a path to better health.

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