TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. — COVID-19 has changed all of our lives in so many ways. It's changed work, school, how we celebrate holidays and virtually every other thing we do.
That change is having a profound effect on the way people are coping with stress.
"Since May, we've seen an increase of ten percent in our treatment center for alcohol related admits...They come in due to restrictions from the pandemic.
People have lost their jobs, they've had to stay home with their children, they have problems working from home, they have problems with their relationships, not having social interaction," said Lucy Turek, the program therapist at Footprints Beachside Recovery in Treasure Island.
Turek says more people are turning to alcohol and substances to cope with the stress of events they've never encountered before. A home alcohol delivery company called Drizzly says their sales are up 350 percent this year over the last.
Turek says it's important to recognize signs of addiction in friends, family and yourself. Some things to look out for are impairment or distress.
"Impairment can be social, like social isolation. It can also be occupational. Someone isn't working or they're just not performing at work, those are signs," she said.
Also look out for tolerance. If a person's tolerance has increased and they need to drink more and more and start to rely on alcohol or substances, that is a sign of dependence. Also look for a decrease in activities, like no longer going to the gym or no longer calling or texting to reach out to friends or family.
In yourself, recognize if you've started to drink more or increase substance use. If you're spending more time obtaining those things and devoting more money toward them and craving them more, that could be a sign of addiction as well.
The best thing you can do in a situation where you notice signs of addiction in others is to just have a conversation.
"This is a huge area where we can actually directly support someone. Reach out. Call, text them, maybe host a safe event together. Social interaction is important. Also educate people, your friends, your family, your community," said Turek.
It's important to let others know it's okay to admit they're struggling so that they're more comfortable and willing to ask for help.
Alcohol related illnesses kill around 88,000 people every year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline at 1-800-62-HELP or visit their website. You can also find virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings here.
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