Topic: Illicit Drug Use
Question: Why have some people turned to illicit drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic when they have never used drugs before?
Melissa J. Henke, M.D.
Psychiatrist, Medical Director
North Dakota Professional Health Program & Heartview Foundation
It’s important to understand that addiction is an illness of isolation. This is problematic right now because, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all become more isolated than we were before. As a result, when someone is stressed and then cut off from all their normal sources of support, they find themselves really struggling. Thus, individuals may be at risk of turning to illicit substances to help them cope during this time of increased isolation.
One particular downfall of increased isolation is that people are using more frequently by themselves, which increases the chance for a dangerous overdose. In fact, we are seeing a rise in overdoses of Fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine in the state of North Dakota, suggesting not only that people are using more but that they may also have less access to safety net resources.
These are some things to consider if you or someone you care about is struggling with substance use: