Unemployment and Addiction | The Fallout of COVID-19

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have found themselves working remotely, unemployed or furloughed for the foreseeable future. This is of particular concern to those working in the recovery space. Research shows that a significant link exists between national trends of unemployment and addiction. Today, we’ll discuss the unexpected fallout of COVID-19.

Unemployment by the Numbers

The outbreak and its resulting economic downturn have reminded many of us of the Great Recession. In fact, current circumstances are worse than those of 2007 to 2010. The Pew Research Center has published an article claiming that unemployment rose higher in three months of COVID-19 than it did over two years of the Great Recession.

The recession’s unemployment rate peaked at 10.6% in January of 2010. This May, the unemployment rate may have been as high as 16%.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released its statistics for the month of May. These numbers make evident the colossal impact of COVID-19. While the rate of unemployment has lowered to 13.3% since April, the reality is that 20,935,000 Americans were unemployed last month. This number doesn’t take into account more than 8 million people who received unemployment insurance or who benefited from the Payroll Protection Program. Under this legislation, the BLS ignores part-time workers, furloughed employees and those who were temporarily laid off.

Unemployment Statistics

However, the Great Recession can teach us something else about how Americans behave in times of crisis. Research from this era shows that when under these conditions, people begin to drink and use drugs more.

Unemployment and Addiction

Several questions arise when we discuss unemployment and addiction, and most of them involve causality. Does drug use lead to joblessness, or does unemployment catalyze a pattern of problematic substance use?

On one hand, substance abuse dramatically impacts a person’s professional life. Consistently using drugs or alcohol may result in chemical, physical and psychological dependency. Once a person has reached this level of addiction to a substance, they are likely to exhibit behaviors that make them more challenging to employ. Those in active addiction may struggle with matters of conscientiousness – punctuality, attention to detail and reliability – or find themselves much less productive than they were in sobriety. If an employer tests for the use of illegal drugs, those who are using these substances will find themselves unable to get or maintain jobs.

On the other hand, people who are unemployed may face specific challenges that put them at higher risk of substance abuse. The first of these is financial hardship, and the second is an increased amount of unstructured time. Together, these factors represent high levels of stress and boredom. When individuals find themselves in this situation, it is more likely that they will turn to drinking and using drugs.

According to Brian Greaney, a research associate at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, “During episodes of large increases in unemployment, the number of drug users can increase dramatically. Whether these effects are just temporary or have long-lasting consequences will depend on how the relationship between employment status and drug use evolves for an individual user over time.”

Tennessee Resources

Fortunately, countless resources exist for those dealing with job loss in the state of Tennessee. Those who have lost jobs can most efficiently file for unemployment by visiting www.Jobs4TN.gov. This website also includes information about new career opportunities, job openings and adult education.

The Department of Human Services is also making financial resources available to families who have been significantly impacted by the novel coronavirus. More information is available online.

For those who have begun using drugs and alcohol heavily during the pandemic, help is available. Cumberland Heights provides evidence-based, clinically sophisticated treatment on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Our team of trained addiction experts can assist people who have developed a dependency on cocaine, heroin, prescription painkillers, crystal meth, alcohol and more. To speak with a member of our compassionate admissions staff, please contact us today.

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Your gift to Cumberland Heights through our annual and capital initiates gives immediate support to patients and their families. To make a longer term impact a gift to the endowment fund will provide patient assistance funding for years to come.