Every available substance abuse metric points to an increase in California's mental health crisis during COVID.
Based on several available indicators, Californians are having a hard time coping with the prolonged COVID-19 crisis.
According to a study from Harvard, troublesome drinking, or binge-drinking, was up more than 20% during the pandemic. Scientists estimate that mortality rates may soar up to 35% as a result.
"We're seeing an increase in deaths related to alcohol use disorder," said Dr. Kelly Ann Barnes, a UCSF addiction psychiatrist. "This is something that we expected might happen because we know that when people are stressed they often turn to substances to cope with that stress."
Barnes said she's seeing a lot of new patients. She has also noticed a change in existing patients who have relapsed or increased their use of alcohol over the past year.
While some have sought to downplay the negative mental health effects of COVID-19 in favor of curbing the spread of the disease, worrisome indicators are cropping up all over the state.
In San Diego, criminal defense attorney David Shapiro is seeing a damning number of new referrals to his office. Not only from the community at large, but from within his own profession.
"We've been told that we've seen an increase in alcohol consumption across the board," said Dr. Peter Banys, a psychiatrist at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.
Banys says there are warning signs to look out for if you think your drinking has crossed a line."If you start to feel withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking, or if you can't seem to go through your daily activities without having a drink or feeling like you need one," he said. "If your friends and family start to notice that maybe you're drinking too much."
Doctors tell us to seek help with problem drinking if we consume too much. A therapist or addiction specialist can help us get back on track with our health and mental well-being.
California boasts the highest number of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers at more than 1,700. Doctors will advise that if you feel you or a loved one needs help, reach out to your primary care physician, or call 1-800-662-4357 or www.findtreatment.gov.