Substance abuse during a pandemic

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EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s been one year since the pandemic began to spread, changing our daily lives.

Many have found healthy ways to cope, but some teenagers could be more susceptible to more dangerous behaviors like substance abuse. Eyewitness News spoke with drug and alcohol specialists about what that means and how to prevent it.

As people continue to stay at home to stop the spread, substance abuse prevention specialists say they’ve seen a general increase in people abusing alcohol, nicotine, or drugs.

“When it comes to teens, there’s no definitive data yet to prove that, but in talking to teens, parents, therapists, school professionals, I think it’s very likely that when the next Pennsylvania youth survey and monitoring the future data comes out, we will see an increase,” Caron Foundation Director of Community Education Christine Storm said.

“We’re not getting as many adolescent referrals which is scary. We get a few but it’s still kind of scary,” Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services Prevention Education Specialist Stefanie Wolonik said.

During a normal year, teachers are often the first person to refer their students for substance abuse programs. They can see the signs of substance abuse because they interact with their students everyday, but with virtual learning that is usually not the case.

Substance abuse prevention education presentations are also not being held as frequently to keep students socially distant. And that could be harmful.

“If it’s left unchecked, the substance use disorder could get worse and worse and then it’s harder to come back,” Wolonik said.

To combat that, the Caron Foundation is holding online presentations, which are seeing an increase in attendance. They can help identify signs of substance abuse.

“Lots of things to look out for. I think changes in eating, sleeping, and energy patterns. The people that they’re hanging out with or they’re talking to. Things related to combative behavior,” Storm said.

For more signs of substance abuse or dates for prevention presentations, click the links above.

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