Some DePaul students increase substance use during pandemic


Maggie Gallagher | The DePaulia

Cases of beer stacked in a cooler at Walgreen’s.

As social distancing becomes the new normal, some people are turning to drug use to cope with anxiety or to simply pass the time. 

“I’m definitely smoking more weed and drinking more alcohol than usual,” said DePaul sophomore Maddie Brockmyre. “I’m just sitting alone and constantly thinking which gives me anxiety about everything.”

Brockmyre uses substances like alcohol and marijuana to help ease the stresses of COVID-19, and she said she’s allowed herself to drink and smoke more often given the circumstances. Still, she’s aware of her increased consumption – and expressed concern over how it might progress in the future.

“I don’t want weed and alcohol to become a crutch for me when I feel anxious,” she added. “However, if the stay at home order continues through summer and I don’t even have school to keep me busy, I could see my use increasing.”

People are also using drugs more frequently to make use of extra free time. Recent DePaul graduate James Cook is embracing this time to partake in substance use while he can before starting his new job.  

“Now that I have more free time at home, I’m smoking weed and eating edibles a lot more,” Cook said. “I’ve seen an increase in consumption because I’m always home. It occupies my time while I’m forced to stay inside.”

While Cook consumes more marijuana than before, he noticed that he’s drinking alcohol less frequently during quarantine. 

“I’m inclined to drink during social situations,” he said. “Quarantine made me realize that I used to drink frequently, which isn’t good. Now that I’m not around people, I don’t drink as much.”

Although Cook is getting high more often, he added that the increased usage is temporary. 

“I wouldn’t want to continue consuming as much as I do now after quarantine,” he said. “Right now is the perfect time for me to do as much as I want before I get busy again.”

Like Cook, others are taking advantage of the extra leisure time by taking different drugs. Alcohol sales across the country have soared during the lockdown, according to the Republic National Distributing Company. Alcoholic beverage sales in the U.S. increased by 58 percent for the week ending on March 21. 

Some people are drinking more in wake of the pandemic because there isn’t much else to do. As shelter in place orders persist indefinitely, people recovering from addiction may face new challenges in their journey to sobriety. 

After being sober for 11 months, Colin Fagan has no desire to start drinking again. But some individuals struggling with addiction may resort to their vices during this time. 

“There are different reasons to drink. During quarantine, more reasons to drink come about,” Fagan said. “For others who are in the beginning stages of sobriety, being physically isolated can be the start to a vicious cycle of drinking.”

Fagan feels fortunate to be sober for nearly a year, especially amid the impacts of COVID-19. Being sober maintains his mental and physical health, giving him the confidence to navigate these unprecedented times. 

“If this happened while I was still drinking, I’d say f–k it, and I’d start drinking,” he said. “I can’t imagine quarantine happening at a better time in my life. I’m in a space where I’m comfortable with myself.”

Fagan acknowledges the stresses he faces during social isolation. Instead of drinking, Fagan uses remote ways to interact with friends and family in times of need. However, as liquor stores remain one of the few essential businesses to remain open during the pandemic, people are encouraged to drink alcohol now more than before. 

“While drinking isn’t healthy, if people need to drink during this and have it under control to an extent, I’d say this is a pretty good time to drink,” Fagan said.