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COVID-19, Mental Health & Substance Abuse

December 15, 2020
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WRITTEN BY Joshua Mueller

SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness, has infected at least 325,000 Missourians and led to over 4,500 deaths in the state as of December 2020.

Social isolation and economic insecurity, both of which have increased during the pandemic, are known to exacerbate (and even cause) psychiatric disorders. Mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and substance abuse disorder are estimated to affect approximately 20% of the US population, so the COVID-19 pandemic poses increased risks to a significant portion of the community even if they are not directly infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Research on mental health outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic indicates that substance abuse, including the use of opioids such as fentanyl, has increased, illustrating how the current crisis may trigger new mental disorders even in those without a previous diagnosis. Moreover, populations with pre-existing mental health conditions have proven to be more susceptible to COVID-19 and subsequent health complications, including death, highlighting the complex interactions between mental health and population health outcomes.

Finally, several demographic groups, including youth populations and racial/ethnic minorities, have been disproportionately affected by the dual COVID-19/mental health epidemic, pointing to a need for increased attention and resources for vulnerable populations to reduce further harm.

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