Effects of COVID-19 on Youth Substance Abuse

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Residential Treatment Center Youth

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly caused significant harm to individuals and families across the globe. Economic problems, mental health issues, social disturbances – the list of problems that can be put at the feet of the pandemic is substantial. That’s why it would be reasonable to assume that the pandemic would also increase youth substance use – but the opposite may be true. 

COVID-19 and Youth Substance Use – Potentially Surprising Outcomes

An article in the Journal of Adolescent Health examined the effect of the pandemic on youth substance use and came to some surprising conclusions. The natural assumption of most people, including the author of the article, was that the stress and chaos caused by the pandemic would lead to an increase in substance use by youths. It increased in adults, so why not in children and teens?

According to the author, the pandemic could increase substance use to cope with stress and self-medication. However, taken as a whole, it is just as likely that substance use among youth will go down. 

Multiple factors determine whether a youth engages in substance use. Some factors increase the likelihood while some factors decrease the likelihood. It just so happens that the stay-at-home orders and increased time at home spent by parents lead to positive factors – the ones that decrease the likelihood of substance use in children and teens. 

Here are a few reasons why youth substance use might decrease:

  • Increased time spent with parents. Multiple studies have demonstrated that an increase in time spent with parents, including eating meals together and sharing activities, decreases the risk of unhealthy behaviors like substance use. 
  • Decrease in social pressure. Many children are now engaged in at-home schooling via remote learning. For some children, school can lead to increased stress and anxiety which can then lead to substance use. 
  • Improved sleep patterns. The early start times of many school districts can lead to sleep deprivation in children and teens. Staying home from school has likely improved the sleep patterns of many students. 
  • Difficulties accessing substances. Having parents home most of the time makes it more difficult for children and teens to access substances. It is harder to go out shopping for them, to order them online, and to bring them home without the notice of parents. 
  • Delay of first substance use. Research has shown that the earlier a child initiates substance use, the more likely they are to develop a problem later on. Having parents at home throughout the year is probably delaying access to substances and therefore increasing the age of children before they first try a substance. 

There Are Always Exceptions

While the theories of the author are encouraging, the truth is that there are still some children and teens who will fall through the cracks. When they do, often the most obvious solution is a residential treatment center. However, it is important to recognize that not all treatment centers are good to their patients. Residential treatment center abuse happens more than it should. 

If your child or loved one has been a victim of residential treatment center abuse in Utah, please contact Carlson Injury Law. We are ready to fight for your rights and the rights of the ones you love. Fill out our secure, online contact form or call us at (801) 845-4577.