How the Pandemic has Affected Opioid Usage

pic of Megan D
By: Megan Donny

While the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic is the top story on most news channels, we need to remember that our nation is facing another crisis: the opioid epidemic. 

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), during the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of opioid-related deaths.  

The AMA said that during this pandemic, more than 35 states have reported increased numbers in opioid-related deaths as well as continuing concerns about substance use disorder. 

Reversing the Trend

The Coronavirus has begun to reverse the strides made in recent years to reduce the effects of the opioid epidemic in the United States. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January showed there was a slight decline in overdose deaths. This was the first reported decline in 28 years. 

But the pandemic is reversing those trends. This is due to the isolation, quarantine and economic devastation many have experienced during this pandemic. 

“When the pandemic hit, some authorities hoped it might lead to a decrease in overdoses by disrupting drug traffic as boarders and cities shut down,” said William Wan and Heather Long from The Washington Post.

But the pandemic brought anxiety and depression, both of which can drive someone to drug use. Because of the pandemic and quarantine, people have been seeking out new dealers, many of whom are desperate for money due to lack of work because of the pandemic. 

Also, during the beginning of the pandemic, many recovery programs and treatment centers had to close to enforce the quarantine and social distancing. Locally, some 12-step programs had to temporarily close because the non-profit facilities they were using were closed to all group meetings. 

Drug Use and Your Child

If you’re worried that your child may be affected by the pandemic and may turn toward drug use, there are signs to look for. These signs include lack of motivation, lack of communication, hostile or angry behavior, secretive behavior, lack of focus, sudden loss of inhibitions, and periods of sleeplessness or high extended periods of energy, followed by a crash and then more sleep. 

Checking their social media is another way to know if they partake in drug use. Their social media posts or their closer friends may point to drug use. 

We’re deeply concerned about both the pandemic and the opioid crisis. Please take the necessary steps to keep your kids, and yourself, safe.

Links

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/07/01/coronavirus-drug-overdose/

https://www.ama-assn.org/system/files/2020-07/issue-brief-increases-in-opioid-related-overdose.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/09/coronavirus-pandemic-us-opioids-crisis

About spotting drug use: https://drugfree.org/article/spotting-drug-use/

Helping your kids cope with quarantine emotions

pic of Megan D
By Megan Donny

Now that America is beginning to open back up, I find myself feeling upset about everything I missed out on because of the pandemic and anxious about the future. 

Unfortunately, I’m not the only one feeling this way. The outbreak of the Coronavirus has created a lot of anxiety in not only adults but children and teenagers as well. 

This can be a confusing and stressful time, especially for children and teenagers. 

All of the stress and memories of the things they are missing out on can cause them to feel depressed or more aggravated than they usually are. 

As a parent of a child or teenager, you’ve probably experienced some of the backlashes from your kids these emotions are creating. When children are angry or upset, many times they express that anger by yelling, being rude or acting out physically by slamming doors. 

According to clinical psychologist Sherry Kelly, many teenagers who are usually mild-mannered are acting out because they are feeling unusually trapped with no control over their lives anymore. 

While nobody can change what is currently happening with the pandemic, there are ways to help your kids process and control their emotions during this time. 

Four Strategies for Coping During These Times

One way, according to Kelly, is to encourage them to focus on the things they can control, rather than the things they can’t control. She recommends helping kids come up with two lists; one of the things they have control over and one for the things they don’t. You can then help your kids focus on the things on one list, and avoid thoughts about the other. 

Many kids are feeling especially isolated from their friends and other family members they may not live with. I know I personally have felt very lonely during the stay at home order and quarantine. It’s not a surprise that kids are feeling this way. To keep your children engaged with their family and friends, encourage them to Skype or play online games with them as a way to connect. 

Keeping an everyday routine for your kids is another way to help prevent negative emotions associated with the pandemic. By creating a new routine for your kids, it will help them feel less anxious about all of the uncertainty they may be experiencing.  

Make sure you also acknowledge your children’s feelings. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and to express any of their worries they may have. Children are likely to feel secure during times like this if they know their parent has acknowledged their feelings and is there to support them.

We know you’re going through a tough time, parents. Hang in there. And remember what Dr. Lauber always says, “Parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love!”

Resources:

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-03-ways-kids-happy-home-self-quarantine.html

https://www.today.com/health/quarantine-tips-help-your-kids-stay-physically-mentally-fit-t180028

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/04/23/even-mellowest-teens-are-raging-against-quarantine-heres-how-help-them-cope/

Parents: CDC Advice For Dealing with COVID-19

By Katie Mest

I don’t even have to ask at this point about your mental states, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down businesses, workplaces, and schools. Families who would normally see each other only a few hours in the mornings and evenings during a workday are now seeing each other 24/7.

Parents, we know you already have enough on your plate as it is. Maybe you’re working from home while also trying to occupy and teach your children. You have to worry about keeping yourself and your families safe, and you’re confronted with the thought of potentially getting sick every time you leave the house to go food shopping. It’s overwhelming and fear-inducing for everyone. Including your children.

Check for changes in your kid during this time, especially since their schedules have been wildly disrupted. They have no school, no daycare, no sports, no friend interaction outside of the internet. They just have you. And while they might be getting on your nerves now more than ever, there may be some underlying issues stemming from this whole experience.

The CDC suggests that some of what your child may be feeling could come from how you are reacting to the situation. Being “calm and confident” is the key here. (We know that’s far easier said than done.) Before checking in on your kids, ask yourself honestly how you’re doing.

Here are some signs the CDC says to look out for in children and teens:

  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
  • Excessive worry or sadness
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
  • Poor school performance or avoiding school
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

You might even be experiencing some of these yourself. I know I am.

Returning to my classes in an all-online format has not been easy. There are days each week when I struggle to find the motivation to accomplish even simple tasks. My brain is more scattered than ever. I rarely know what day of the week it is, let alone the date. And wine is a tempting treat to counteract the negativity and bad news around me. I get it.

We’re all in this together. Use this time of isolation to support and take care of those you’re now “stuck” with.

What can you do?

  1. Keep routines. The Child Mind Institute says this is the key. The biggest parts of your kids’ schedules have vanished completely. You can help your child through this transition by keeping certain routines in place. Create for them (or if they’re older, help them create) a schedule to follow each day that tells them when they can play, do schoolwork, exercise, etc. Make sure they’re realistic for what your kids can actually accomplish in a day, and factor in breaks from doing work.
  2. Make time for nonelectronic activities (like exercise). Let’s be real, we’re all spending our free time on our devices. Make sure your kids spend some time away from the screen every once in a while and engage in another activity. Try planning a family activity time where you can go for a walk, work on a puzzle, or do a craft together. That way you can get quality family time while also breaking up your days.
  3. Practice good media literacy with them. Especially now, make sure you’re consuming truthful, meaningful media. Certainly, stay up to date with the COVID-19 situation, but don’t let the news add to the anxiety you’re feeling. Similarly, reinforce that your kid (particularly older ones) can tell the difference between fake news and real news. And make sure they don’t spend their days worrying themselves by reading article after article about the coronavirus.
  4. Check-in with your kid. They may come out and tell you the different ways they feel negatively impacted by the pandemic. The Child Mind Institute says that kids throwing tantrums or being more defiant than usual may be experiencing anxiety, and they don’t know how to manage it. Talk through emotions, and you might be able to get to the root of the problem.  
  5. Keep them connected. They miss their friends as much as you miss yours. Allow them to message or video chat their friends because at this point in their lives (teens especially), their friends are one of the most important things in their lives. Remember that there are some issues in a kid’s life that require friends’ input, not necessarily parents’.

The most helpful thing you can do to help your child through this pandemic is to validate their feelings. I don’t know how to manage all the feelings I have about the coronavirus and its impact on the world, but it means a lot to have trusted adults in your life tell you that you’re not silly or childish for feeling this way.

We all feel a little helpless right now. Support your kids, and don’t forget to lean on others for support, too, if you need it.

Read More:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html