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Elections & Substance Use: Is The 2020 Election Leading to More Substance Use?

Elections & Substance Use: Is The 2020 Election Leading to More Substance Use?

2020 has been an interesting year so far. Not only did the world come to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the United States is in the midst of a presidential election. With the nation strongly divided on many issues, political ads at every turn, and the coronavirus crisis still a problem, many people are reaching their limit and turning to some dangerous outlets for help.

How the Presidential Election Impacts Drinking & Drug Use

Elections are important, but the connection between presidential elections and substance use is a cause for concern. Politics in general tend to be a source of stress, anxiety, and tension for many people. Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, a poll found that 57% of Americans cited the current political climate in the United States as a somewhat or significant source of stress.1 Not surprisingly, 72% of Democrats said the outcome of the 2016 presidential election was a significant source of stress in their life, but 26% of Republicans agreed.1 In response to these high-stress levels from the 2016 election, the term election stress disorder was coined, and although it is not an official medical disorder, its use is now making a comeback with the upcoming 2020 election.2 Unfortunately, stress can be a big contributing factor to the development of substance use disorders. Study after study shows that those exposed to high levels of stress are more likely to use alcohol, do drugs, or relapse if they already completed a medical detox program and are now sober.3 The stress from the coronavirus crisis is already leading to increased substance use problems, and now adding the election into the mix isn’t helping matters. In an attempt to escape the 2020 election stress, some people may be turning to drugs or alcohol for help. Not to mention the fact that if your chosen candidate doesn’t win, coping with the loss may make these substances even more tempting. One study found that within 30 days of election day in 2016, counties with more support for the losing candidate saw an increase in alcohol sales and alcohol consumption.4 In some cases, drinking during the election season is even seen as trendy. The internet is filled with a variety of election drinking games for debates and election night. While these games are meant to be in good fun, they may have more devastating results than many people realize and could exacerbate the relationship between elections and substance use. For people already struggling with their alcohol consumption, this correlation may be dangerous. They may use these election drinking games as an excuse for their alcohol use, and it could push their drinking over the edge.

How to Manage Election Season & Substance Use

As Trump and Biden square off, some people may be tempted to turn to their liquor cabinet or use drugs to escape, but this is not the answer. While it is important to stay informed, limiting media consumption, unplugging from social media, practicing self-care, and avoiding drugs and alcohol may help you survive the election season without falling to substance use. People who are in early recovery or outpatient care should be especially careful. Because of the strong connection between elections and substance use, election season can be a triggering time. Be mindful of your sobriety, and take extra precautions to avoid relapsing during the election season. Regardless of if you are a die-hard donkey, enthusiastic elephant, or somewhere in between, if you have a substance use problem, stop waiting to get help. Our addiction treatment centers help people from different walks of life and backgrounds work through their stress to find lasting sobriety. Begin your journey to recovery or get a loved one help. Contact us today at Vertava Health.