Health Care professional warns of holiday substance abuse

Guest Editorial

The Covid-19 pandemic put many of last year's holiday festivities on hold, so these holidays are the first opportunity that many have had to gather and celebrate. But this could also mean that many people who've become addicted to drugs and alcohol are seeing their family again, which could bring a lot of things to light.

That's because the Covid-19 pandemic drastically worsened America's already horrific drug epidemic. Last year was the deadliest year for drug overdoses in American history. More than 93,000 people died of an overdose in 2020, which was an increase of more than 30 percent from the previous year's total, as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And in 2021 those numbers are still climbing. 

So we have a large number of people who have begun abusing substances or have increased their use, leading to the worst point we’ve seen in our country’s history of addiction. And many of them will be joining their families for the holidays, a time of year when addiction is usually at its worst. 

According to Marcel Gemme of, the holidays are already a recipe for overindulgence. Many people’s holiday plans involve consumption of at least alcohol, which can easily lead to misuse.

Those who already struggle with addiction may find that the holidays bring up negative emotions or additional scrutiny from family members. They may use even more substances to cope with the negative feelings or try to hide their drug use. All these things can lead to consuming drugs or alcohol when one might otherwise not. 

With addiction rates increasing and more people gathering this holiday season than at any time since 2019, the chances of the year ending in tragedy are much higher than experts would like to see. But instead of preparing for the worst, this time could be viewed as an opportunity to solve the problem. 

A solution to America’s drug epidemic is needed. We have poured an excessive amount of time, attention and resources into fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, and those efforts are what are allowing us to have this holiday experience in 2021. Tackling the nation’s addiction problem with even a fraction of the same intensity level given to Covid could potentially end one of the worst public health threats we've ever known. After all, drug overdoses alone have taken more lives than the coronavirus has in America, with a death toll that's more than 25 percent higher.  And that’s only taking into account drug overdoses since 1999 and does not include other drug-related deaths such as those from accidents and illnesses. 

This New Year, let’s aim to address this problem once and for all. We can each go on hoping it gets better, which it isn’t, or we can do something about it. 

Taking action to solve addiction may start small. But it starts with each of us. Take this time to see your loved ones and really check on how they’re doing. You might just save the life of someone you love, and that’s all that matters whether we’re fighting Covid or addiction. 


Joseph Kertis of Newport, Oregon, is an experienced health care professional turned journalist with experience in the field of substance abuse and addiction recovery.

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