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Substance use and abuse is on the rise. Here's how to seek help

Isolation and stress from the pandemic caused many people to turn to alcohol and drugs. Sponsored by Premera.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on many people’s mental health. Alcohol and marijuana sales have gone up approximately 70 percent during the pandemic. It is estimated that 3 million Washington citizens will have an acute mental health or substance abuse disorder within the next several months. 

“It’s still going on, even though we’re relaxing some of the masks and things are starting to open up,” said Lisa Rogers, senior manager of Sound Health SUD services. “There’s still a huge unemployment rate. People are really self-medicating.”

The pandemic’s imposed isolation has made it more likely and easier for people to abuse alcohol and drugs. 

“When people are isolated and there’s stress involved with that and anxiety, people are making unhealthier choices because they’re alone,” Rogers said. “No one is going to see or no one is going to know.”

Those with mental health issues may turn to alcohol and/or drugs to feel better, including methamphetamines and marijuana. But when you mix mental health issues and substances, it can have dangerous effects.

“Once you combine the mental health symptoms with the effects of the substances, you have a whole new grouping of symptoms,” Rogers said. “It can be a very, very challenging situation.”

There is help. Behavioral health organizations all over the Puget Sound area are accepting patients, including Sound Health. You can call to make an appointment at one of Sound’s 16 locations across King County. 

“We do everything we can to remove the barriers and make sure that people can have contact with a person directly rather than a voicemail,” Rogers said. 

There are also telehealth options for patients. In the last year, Sound Health has provided 44,000 hours of telehealth. 

Rogers says one of the most important things we can do as a loved one of a person battling substance abuse is to reduce the stigma of discussing it so that those affected feel comfortable getting help.

To learn more, visit the Sound Health website.

RELATED: Mental health resources to use if you are in crisis or just need a helping hand

Sponsored by Premera as part of The Way ForwardSegment Producer Suzie Wiley. Watch New Day Northwest 11 AM weekdays on KING 5 and streaming live on KING5.com. Contact New Day.