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Coronavirus pandemic linked to the recent rise of mental illness, drug abuse in America

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — According to Mental Health America, nearly 170,000 more Americans have screened positive for depression or anxiety since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mental illness can be a direct link to substance abuse.

Dean Miller works with people struggling with addiction in Springfield and says COVID-19 is taking a toll.

“All of this leaves people in addiction more or less alone, and unfortunately most of the people who deal drugs, they’re open,” Miller said.

Technology has helped keep communication open for patients and counselors, but it isn’t the same as meeting in person. Experts say that in-person meetings hold those at risk of relapse more accountable.

The lack of human engagement isn’t the only thing that can lead to substance abuse.

“Any situation of stress or uncertainty increases the likelihood of people taking drugs, or already taking drugs to escalate on their use,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The number of drug overdoses is on the rise.

“The number of alerts have increased significantly, that is one, I mean 30-40%, since the start of the pandemic,” Volkow said.

Volkow says while the healthcare system is dealing with the pandemic, those struggling with addiction may not be getting the attention they need. And counselor Miller says that leads to even more anxiety.

“As scared as everyone is, imagine how scared you are if you’re in the middle of an addiction, and you’re not knowing every day how it’s going to go,” Miller said.

Miller says that those struggling should try to keep to a routine, stay busy and when challenged do the next best thing.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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