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Substance Use During COVID-19 Leave

Date: June 24, 2020

EAP/Professional Standards Committee

Historically, crisis events tend to trigger increased drug and alcohol abuse. Post 9/11, for example, the National Institutes of Health raised concerns about increased substance use by those impacted by the tragedy. Meanwhile, after Hurricane Katrina, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that hospitalization for alcohol use disorders rose by 35 percent in New Orleans. Experts fear that we will see similar trends this time, but on a national scale. People frequently self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to cope with feelings of stress and anxiety. Uncertainty about the future, loneliness, lack of routine, economic dislocation, job loss and fear of death by disease, can all be triggers for those who are vulnerable to substance abuse, including those in recovery – even after long periods of abstinence. Meanwhile, stay-at-home orders in effect for COVID-19, limit access to support systems such as friends, neighbors, therapists, church, family and recovery groups. Early indications aren’t good. Researchers are seeing spikes in alcohol sales, marijuana use, and anti-anxiety and pain medication prescriptions.

If you are concerned about substance abuse for yourself, a family member or flying partner, now is the perfect time to consider treatment, especially if you are on a voluntary leave. 

Your AFA EAP peer professionals can discuss and coordinate all treatment options while maintaining your right to privacy. If you are getting ready to return from a leave and would like to discuss preventing safety risk associated with drug and alcohol testing violations, contact your AFA EAP for a confidential conversation. Your Local AFA EAP Committee Representative can be reached at unitedafa.org.

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