Americans, Covid-19, and Recreational Drug Use: Part 1

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It is a strange time in America and the world right now. People feel alone, maybe more than ever. People are scared, for good reason. Earlier this week I showed data that confirmed that Covid-19 will be the largest single event killer of Americans by virtually any definition, even if a vaccine comes in the near future. I have written extensively about the epidemic that proceeded with the current pandemic. Sars-Cov-2, or Covid-19 disease, is a pandemic affecting almost the entire world to some extent. Before most Americans had ever heard of a coronavirus, an ugly epidemic was already taking lives and ruining futures at a staggering rate. I am referring to substance use disorder… addiction. I write about opiate use disorder the most because the introduction and marketing of drugs like Oxycontin and the mass production of potent opioid painkillers such as fentanyl have caused a crisis for many people with any predisposition for drug abuse. There are also many people struggling with opiate pain killers who do not have the classic predispositions for addiction, which include a family history of addiction or alcoholism, childhood or adulthood trauma or abuse, and other mental health comorbidities such as depression or anxiety. I write about these issues daily, but earlier this month I received an interesting email from an organization called AmericanMarijuana.org. They played a key role in California Proposition 215, also known as the “Compassionate Use Act of 1996.” 

The passing of that legislation effectively legalized medical marijuana in the state of California in 1996, as I understand it, although the fight for legal cannabis did not end in 1996 and did not stop in California. I have stated many times that addiction, or substance use disorder, is a disease state, and for that reason, I vehemently oppose the criminalization of drug use and addiction as a disease. Millions of Americans use drugs of some kind, and problematic drug abuse requires treatment, which jails are not good at and should not be used for. Therefore, when a representative of AmericanMarijuana.org got in touch with me, I took notice. I am biased, but I have met the great people at the best drug addiction rehab clinic in Florida, and it is located in Panama City. With Americans struggling with mental and physical health issues at unprecedented numbers, we need more great people who understand addiction, and less uncaring governmental bodies looking to arrest their own sick citizens. AmericanMarijuana.org spent major man-hours doing a study on drug use during Covid-19 and the lockdown that the pandemic has caused. I have already written about the fact that overdoses are probably at an all-time high right now, but AmericanMarijuana.org spent the time and money to get some hard facts about how drug use has changed in the United States during the current coronavirus threat.

When we talk about addiction in America, we are talking about all 50 states, every family, and every community. Like the flu, addiction is here to stay, but we have nurses, doctors, and many other medical professionals who care about people and want to treat Americans who are in crisis and need help. I concentrate on Florida and the Panama City area because Florida was an original problem area for pill mills and remains a place where many people are struggling with substance abuse. People in places like Springfield, Callaway, Lynn Haven, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Panama City are struggling with both Covid-19 and substance use disorder, but when I mention Destin or Panama City Beach Florida, I could just as easily be speaking about New York City, Austin Texas, or San Francisco California. AmericanMarijuana.org spent months logging Reddit posts about drug use in American cities, the drugs include Marijuana and various others, and these are some of the main results that came from their work. In March, as the Covid-19 pandemic became a catastrophe all over the country, Reddit posts confirm that Americans were using drugs of all kinds at a high rate, and in March fewer people were interested in seeking treatment. The next fact that they gleaned from Reddit is the most interesting to me. I will quote from the story published by AmericanMarijuana.org now, 

“In April and May, it seems that Americans start to realize drugs cannot help them cope with the pandemic so that more people try to give up substance use. A positive signal happens in July when many more people try to quit drugs (especially when compared to June), despite booming drug use that month.”

That quote confirms the research I have seen, I have been concentrating on booming opiate use, booming alcohol use, and bars and restaurants were closed in many cases during the time period mentioned. Drinking to get drunk at home by oneself is not always a negative thing, but many people in AA will tell you that it can be a problematic habit that leads to addiction. I can also confirm that my good friends in Panama City at Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery have been busy with people walking in and seeking treatment for addiction. Many of the best drug rehabs in Florida have had to pull together and risk their own safety to help people struggling with addiction during a time when a social contact is a risk factor for the deadly Covid-19 disease. 

Specific to AmericanMarijuana.org’s findings, it seems that more people are using both marijuana and alcohol, but almost all reports of seeking treatment for substance abuse problems stem from alcohol rather than marijuana in cases where those two substances are mentioned. I take that information at face value. Alcohol is legal and it kills tens of thousands of Americans every year, while Marijuana has been demonized for almost a century, despite having almost none of the risk that comes with drinking alcohol regularly. I highlight cultural norms like this because they lead to death and destruction in the lives of many people. I don’t smoke marijuana personally, but it is hard to imagine why a person enjoying Cannabis at home would be a cause to jail a person. I give credit to people and organizations who fight for treatment rather than criminalization for people who need mental or physical health treatment. Hospitals and ventilators for people with Covid-19. Rehabilitation and therapy for people with substance use disorder. I commend the work being done at places like Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery in Panama City, Florida. I also commend AmericanMarijuana.org for drawing attention to these important issues at such a critical time, even though I was not personally familiar with their work before this month. I will write more about the study they did later this week. As always, if you or a loved one is in need of the best drug rehab clinic in Florida or the Florida Panhandle Region, go to the programs page on this site and seek help. There are people all over the country who want you to be happy healthy and safe, even if it feels lonely for many people right now. 

By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at TACannonWriting@gmail.com)

 

Special thanks to AmericanMarijuana.org, references include the article by Dwight K. Blake at https://americanmarijuana.org/substance-use-covid-19/