It starts with obsessiveness –

May 8, 2020 – This has particularly affected how we provide mental health and substance use care. A recent McKinsey report on resilience found that 63 percent of respondents to a National Consumer Survey in late March reported feeling anxious or depressed in the past week, and 1 out of 4 reported binge drinking at least once (more than 4 drinks for women or 5 drinks for men in a single sitting) in the past week (up from 1 in 6 in a recent CDC analysis). Leading digital coaching and therapy providers such as Talkspace as well as Meditation apps such as Calm have reported increases in utilization of more than 50% month over month.

There has been much coverage of how this expansion of telehealth has impacted substance use treatment, especially Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). Over the past two months, we’ve seen an amazing relaxation of the regulations that previously made it difficult to expand access to MAT, from data-sharing governed by 42 CFR to controlled substance prescriptions that have been strictly monitored through the Ryan Haight Act.

This is welcome news, but it also highlights the extent to which the conversation and coverage of how the U.S. is combating substance use disorder has become dominated by the discussion of OUD. In contrast, coverage of changes around telehealth related to alcohol has focused on things like the 243% increase in online sales in the U.S. The WHO actually had to publish a six-page guide to Alcohol and COVID-19 to remind us that alcohol impairs the immune system and that people should not be drinking during the workday just because they are at home.



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