The COVID Pandemic and Adolescent Addiction

Over the prolonged COVID pandemic, adolescents have been known to be one of the most hard-hit groups who suffer from mental health problems. Substance addiction has also been a concern among this demographic. Despite the decline in the availability of drugs because many adolescents have been staying at home with parents and other family members during this time, many of them were still able to obtain substances despite barriers caused by the pandemic.

Major disruptions such as school closures, social distancing, isolation, and maladjustment to distance learning have caused many young people to experience mental health problems. That this mental health crisis is exacerbating shows that the epidemic of substance use is not likely to subside soon.

Pandemic Anxiety and Depression Among Young People

Several pandemic-induced factors may negatively impact adolescent mental health. First, disruptions of school and lack of socialization have led to increased anxiety, irritability, and fear among children. Although even before the pandemic, many children and youth in the United States were living with mental health disorders, a combination of pandemic-induced factors such as isolation, loneliness, parental income insecurity, child abuse, and lack of access to mental health care has made the situation even worse, particularly among adolescents.

Researchers found that adolescents, young children, LGBTQ youth, and children of color may be particularly vulnerable to negative mental health outcomes of the pandemic. As a result, the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act allocates funding for pediatric mental health care access and youth suicide prevention. However, parents’ poor mental health due to the need to balance work and childcare has also been on the rise, causing home environments to be more stressful than usual.

Caring for Adolescent Mental Health 

Among the many mental health conditions during the pandemic, the top ones include depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorder. Pediatric emergency departments also suggest that suicidal ideation and suicides have been on the rise among adolescents, especially high school students. Parents of those who attend school virtually were more likely to report their children as experiencing worsened emotional or mental health than those attending in-person schools.

Many health care providers began to offer telehealth options, which increased people’s access to mental health care. However, many parents are still delaying mental health care for their adolescent children. There is a need to raise awareness among parents to seek professional help for their children at an early stage when they do develop mental health issues. Schools also need to explore school-based mental health services for both staff and students.

The Pandemic and Substance Addiction

Many research studies in the past have confirmed the association between job loss and increased depression, anxiety, distress, and low self-esteem, all of which lead to a higher risk of substance addiction, sometimes even death through overdose. Throughout the pandemic, women have been more likely to develop mental health problems because they take up more childcare responsibilities, and structural unemployment has also impacted women the most.

During the pandemic, adults in households with job loss have had higher risks of substance addiction. This phenomenon has a trickle-down effect on adolescents and children in these households. They are exposed to the parental practice of substance use (and sometimes abuse), leading to a higher risk of developing mental health issues and addictive habits in this vulnerable stage of life.

Although policy-makers and the medical community need to do their part, each of us also has a role to play in our homes, schools, and communities. The principles stay the same: practice self-care and compassion for others and advise those in need to seek professional health as soon as possible.

Strengthening a Post-Pandemic Recovery Community 

All of us hope that the end of the pandemic is on the horizon. However, many of the long-term implications are sure to linger. In history, we have seen similar waves of plagues and disasters, and the mental health impact also outlasts the actual disasters. This means that the adolescent substance addiction and mental health crisis is going to continue on a broader scale. There is a need to strategically rebuild our lives back through strengthening a post-pandemic recovery community.

What everyone can do is raise awareness about adolescent mental health and addiction. We need to do it in a way that does not add to the stigma of addiction. Everyone can play a role in educating members of the public about stress management and coping strategies. When we engage in risk communication about public health or mental health concerns, we need to be clear, consistent, and transparent. Lastly, the idea of seeking early intervention should be firmly planted among everyone who has a loved one struggling with mental health issues or substance addiction. 

Do you or your loved one need support for addiction treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic? It is widely known that the prolonged public health crisis has given rise to a mental health and substance addiction epidemic among young people. Early intervention is key, and you need to seek professional help. South Florida Intervention is the place to support you. We have professionally trained interventionists who are experienced in helping many teens and young adults on their journey out of substance addiction. We have also coached many parents on how to best support their children during this challenging process. We know how to work with young people and their families. You can trust our expertise, and we won't disappoint you. It is our commitment to connect you with trusted health professionals who have plenty of experience. Apart from recovery coaching and parent coaching, we also offer detailed case management. Call us today at (202) 390-2273. Do not delay.