Nearly two-thirds of doctors are worried that they may have overlooked addiction symptoms among their patients during the pandemic, according to a  report published Nov. 15 by Quest Diagnostics.

Doctors More Aware of Addiction Symptoms, And More Concerned

Doctors have seen the wreckage caused by the opioid epidemic in the past decade or so, and they are now more attuned to the idea that addiction is a disease of the brain. Preventing addiction means helping people find more treatment options, but many people with chronic health issues could not keep regular doctor appointments during the pandemic.

Understandably, doctors are concerned. After all, it’s difficult to see physical symptoms of addiction when you’re working online doing telehealth. And measuring a person’s pain levels or other functions isn’t as easy to do online, either.

Doctors Saw More Stress and Related Illnesses

One reason doctors are more concerned about their patients and substance use is the levels of stress and anxiety they’ve observed, even when they’re doing telehealth sessions or conference calls. Mental health concerns have been a constant topic for all people experiencing pandemic stress, and doctors fear a correlation between mental health issues and increased substance use of all kinds.

Doctors also have decried telehealth sessions. While they have been helpful for people who need mental health treatment and simple medical help, doctors don’t think they can get the whole picture by seeing a patient online. They don’t feel adequately prepared to diagnose or recognize substance abuse, either. Seeing the signs and symptoms of addiction can be tricky.

Doctors have also tried to help patients by increasing the use of drugs used for nerve pain, such as gabapentin, which is not addictive on its own but can enhance the properties of other addictive drugs and cause an overdose. For example, 78% of the doctors who prescribed gabapentin in the last six months said they were worried that if their patients didn’t find proper symptom relief, they would turn to illicit opioids such as fentanyl.

Getting Help for Addiction

While it’s true that the pandemic unleashed stress in many people’s lives, there is still help available. If somebody you love has a substance abuse disorder, there are many types of treatment available. Please check our directory to learn more about different options.