The pandemic has had a massive impact on the world, potentially changing it forever.
Gambling and video game addiction has been on the rise over the course of the last year, with people advised to stay in their homes in order to restrict the spread of COVID-19.
Lockdown conditions have been great news for operators of online casinos, which have seen business boom as a result of brick and mortar casinos being closed down for many months.
Online casino value propositions with no strings attached bonuses are very hard to ignore for regular gamblers, while gamers have also found it hard to restrict their screen time.
What can be done about rising rates of video games and online gambling addiction now?
Mental health and coronavirus
Addiction is a mental health issue. As early into the global pandemic as April 2020, research published by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed nearly half (45 per cent) of American adults had suffered from negative mental health due to the coronavirus crisis.
“Those with mental illness and substance use disorders pre-pandemic, and those newly affected, will likely require mental health and substance use services,” said the report.
With tens of thousands of Americans losing their lives to COVID-19 in the last year, it is clear the pandemic has had a terrible impact on the mental health of the nation as well.
While vaccines offer a route out of the crisis, getting the entire population inoculated is a huge task that is going to take a significant amount of time. Mental health services are limited in many parts of the country, which could lead to further spikes in people suffering from addiction.
Avoiding addiction in gambling and gaming
There are ways that people can look to reduce their chances of developing an addiction to either gaming or gambling at this time.
For example, online gambling is enjoyed by a lot of people without resulting in addiction. There are also ways to stay in control of gambling through the internet, such as by using deposit limits.
Mobile gaming has grown in popularity in the last year, but players can monitor their screen usage through apps and cut back if it starts to become a problem.
Regardless of these control options, there is no doubt that addiction is currently on the rise.
Celebrities among those battling addiction during the pandemic
Even celebrities have not been insulated from the impact of the pandemic on their mental health, with some famous faces speaking out about how their addiction issues have been affected.
Miley Cyrus, for example, revealed that she had begun drinking again, having previously given up alcohol when she was 27.
“I wasn’t sober the last couple of months,” she said in an interview with Zane Lowe in November. “I’m not a moderation person. I fell off, [but] I am now back on sobriety, two weeks sober, and I feel like I [have] really accepted that time.”
Cyrus might have been able to regain control of her addiction relatively quickly, but not all celebrities have been able to manage this throughout the COVID-19 era.
Last August, the blues star Townes Van Earle died at the age of 38 of a drug overdose having taken the opioid Fentanyl, laced with cocaine. He was the son of musical legend Steve Earle.
Data from the US Center for Disease Control revealed that in the 12 months to May 2020, there were more than 80,000 drug overdose deaths in America, setting a new record for the US. The organisation also said it expects the number of drug deaths to rise due to the pandemic.
The future of addiction
Many experts are predicting a sharp rise in addiction, which can be directly linked to the impact on mental health during the coronavirus crisis.
The World Health Organisation listed video game addiction as a mental health disorder in 2019 and lockdown conditions have pushed people into spending more and more time with screens.
Dr Scott Teitelbaum is the medical director of the University of Florida’s Health Florida Recovery Center and a professor in psychiatry and neuroscience at its College of Medicine. He believes addiction is harder to monitor at this time.
“It’s harder to keep people away. It’s kind of like compulsive overeating. You can’t tell people not to eat,” Dr Teitelbaum told Healthline. “You’re telling people not to be on the internet.”
Many experts agree with Dr Teitelbaum’s assessment, with addiction sure to be one of the medical issues America must grapple with in the years to come.
Even when vaccinations result in COVID-19 cases receding, the resulting mental health and addiction problems are going to be a serious issue in the US for some time.