By M. K. Leach
The upcoming 4th of July celebration will be massive in many parts of the country. Family and friends are coming together, and many Americans are putting this pandemic behind them. Unfortunately, however, there is a reoccurring problem during celebrations like this, and that is excessive substance use or binge drinking. During the pandemic, the rates of substance use and alcohol consumption increased. As a result, millions of Americans became isolated, and many began to suffer from substance use and mental health problems.
The 4th of July celebrations will be time for countless people to unwind and finally celebrate a national holiday. Yet, it is important to be mindful of substance use and excessive drinking. It is also important to stay connected with others who are likely still struggling and ensuring they are doing ok. Isolation during the pandemic caused significant spikes in substance use. The upcoming holiday is a perfect time to check in on others and make sure they have the support they need. In addition, it is good to know some tips for warning signs of addiction and how to open dialogue with someone who is struggling.
Binge drinking and harmful alcohol use have been on the rise. During the end of June in 2020, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use, per the CDC. In addition, the American Psychological Association reported during the spring of 2021, opioid and stimulant use was on the rise. Overall, there was an increased demand for mental health services. Moreover, overdose deaths, per the CDC, have been steadily increasing with no sign of dropping. The increase in drinking has also been significant. Alcohol sales increased significantly, and people with mental health problems were more likely to report increased drinking during the pandemic.
Holiday binge drinking is not a new problem and drinking during a holiday celebration is a relatively normal practice. However, these are unique circumstances for many families who may have loved ones struggling in silence with addiction or alcohol abuse during the pandemic. A 4th of July weekend can lead to some bad decisions, and for someone who has been isolated, it is essential now to check-in and ensure they are doing alright. Many families will come together in large groups during the long weekend, and now is the time to ensure that no one is left out.
However, a family may not notice that their loved one is addicted. Yet, there are some indicators, such as changes in physical appearance, altered behavior, drastic mood changes, an increased desire for privacy, and added financial problems. Alcohol abuse is one of the most common addictions in the United States. Someone struggling with alcohol abuse lacks control over how much they drink; they prefer to drink alone or continue to drink despite physical and psychological problems and struggle with depression or anxiety. Millions of Americans have been drinking to cope with problems over the past year or relax, sleep, or improve their mood.
Opening dialog with someone who is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction is not easy, especially after months of isolation for some. It is important to be kind and act with kindness and compassion. Listen more than talking and do not be judgmental. Remain consistent in the message and communicate through actions and words—also be predictable in actions and words. Show unconditional love and concern and let them know that they are loved no matter what is happening. However, do not be afraid to set boundaries and limitations.
Finally, offer help and support the process of change. Unfortunately, not everyone struggling with addiction has the motivation to change. It is up to friends and family to help them seek help and offer to research ways to find the help they need. Offer to find and share information on where to get help. July 4th is a time to come together and celebrate the independence that brought the country together. The upcoming July 4th celebrations are an ideal time to help those in need, ensure everyone is doing well and place this pandemic insanity in the rearview mirror.
Michael Leach has spent most of his career as a health care professional specializing in Substance Use Disorder and addiction recovery. He is a regular contributor to the healthcare website Addicted.org and a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant.