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Experts warn: coronavirus lockdowns may reveal undiagnosed addictions

Isolation and loneliness could trigger a surge in relapses among alcohol and narcotics addicts and could bring to light underlying addiction problems

MAINE, USA — Health experts warn these unprecedented times could trigger undiagnosed addictions among Mainers. 

Numbers show that alcohol sales in the U.S. were up 55 percent in the third week in March, compared to the same time last year. Moreover, new studies show that people across the country are turning to alcohol to soothe their nerves while in isolation.

Addiction expert Dr. Michael Murphy says isolation, loneliness, and boredom are all triggers for relapse among alcohol and narcotics addicts.

"Many people will see that kind of isolation and kind of forced confinement as an opportunity to use drugs or alcohol in a 'safe environment,' but it's really not a safe thing to do," says Dr. Murphy. 

He says the coronavirus pandemic could be a trigger for those in recovery. 

"I think [the pandemic] has created stress for everyone, and people with mental health and substance use disorders tend to be stress-sensitive."

RELATED: Liquor sales spike during coronavirus pandemic

Dr. Murphy says quarantine and isolation can also be triggering for those with undiagnosed addictions. "I think it could be a trigger in relapse or to extend an already abusive pattern of use or drinking."

However, Dr. Murphy says it's unlikely a full-blown addiction would emerge from nothing. 

Where is the line between casual use and addiction?

"It really has to do with how much it's affecting your ability to function socially and occupationally. So if you find that that drink is affecting your ability to get up that next day, be productive, go to work and to log onto work in the case of coronavirus."

Dr. Murphy says another sign that your habits may have crossed a line is if they're impairing your relationships. 

"So if people in your life are making comments to you about how much you're drinking, getting concerned about it, that could be a sign of a problem."

Dr. Murphy suggests staying busy with activities besides drinking or using drugs. 

"What everybody needs to do is find some activities that are healthy for them that they can do within the confines of the space that they're in."

RELATED: Maine Crisis Line sees spike in calls with stay-at-home orders ramping up

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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