More people turning to alcohol, drugs to cope with pandemic anxiety: UC Merced study

You can find help hotlines, including 24-hour numbers for suicide prevention and domestic violence support, at covid19.ca.gov
MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Mental health experts say the pandemic has left many feeling overwhelmed and overpowered.

A recent study done by researchers at UC Merced determined 80% of young adults at the campus had high levels of anxiety and depression.

Anna Song with the university's Nicotine and Cannabis Policy Center said more people are now turning to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism.

"Most of them are reporting alcohol abuse as well as a good portion of them are reporting cannabis use to cope with that anxiety," said Song.

Merced College psychology professor and therapist Joel Murphy says right now substance and alcohol abuse is very prevalent.

He said the stress and even boredom of the pandemic has left many looking for a break from reality.

"I see a lot of clients coming in right now that are finding that they are sort of spending more time either drinking or smoking or doing things like that than they have before," said Murphy.

Help is out there, but the coronavirus has altered how it is accessed.

Song said rehab facilities have reduced their patient intake as a safety precaution.

Many have converted to virtual services, but there are concerns about internet accessibility.

"What we are seeing is there are major obstacles to treating and providing support for people with addiction and substance abuse issues," she said.

But experts say it's important to stay positive and seek help to weather the storm.

"This is just a dark time for a lot of people and when we are in a dark time we are in a storm," said Murphy. "A lot of the times we just need to find peace and comfort in the storm. The storm will end."

You can find help hotlines, including 24 hour numbers for suicide prevention and domestic violence support here.

Those looking to quit smoking can dial 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Song says pharmacists are also trained to provide interventions for those looking to kick the habit.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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