EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Mental health crises are on the rise as the community continues to reckon with the impact of COVID-19.

According to The Wall Street Journal, prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants have increased as people face health scares, job loss, and isolation.

For example, prescriptions for drugs like Klonopin — a benzodiazepine tranquilizer used to treat panic disorders and seizures — rose more than 10 percent from last March. Antidepressants like Prozac has also seen a growth of about 10 percent across the country.

Alcohol sales have increased during the pandemic, which is leaving millions of people susceptible to adverse health effects.

People are turning to alcohol in addition to pharmaceutical support to quiet symptoms like nervousness, disordered thoughts, and insomnia. The problem is that alcohol is a depressant that exacerbates existing symptoms.

“What happens is that people erroneously think that drinking will help make them feel better,” Dr. Robert DelCampo, Professor Emeritus at New Mexico State University’s Department of Family & Consumer Sciences and is the founding Director of the graduate program in Marriage & Family Therapy said on Tuesday during a webinar on managing anxiety, depression, and grief.

A recent study found that anxiety disorders are risk factors for developing alcoholism. People with anxiety use a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine as a social lubricant to minimize the friction of uncomfortable situations. This behavioral pattern leads to next-day anxiety dubbed “hangxiety.”

“We know that many people drink to ease anxiety felt in social situations, but this research suggests that this might have rebound consequences the next day, with more shy individuals more likely to experience this, sometimes debilitating, aspect of hangover,” said the study’s author Celia Morgan in a press release.

“These findings also suggest that hangxiety, in turn, might be linked to people’s chance of developing a problem with alcohol,” which can have severe consequences.

Dr. DelCampo tells KTSM combining prescription drugs for anxiety and depression with alcohol is incredibly dangerous and can result in death.

Anti-anxiety drugs like Klonopin and Xanax work with the body’s nervous system to elevate an inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutrycic acid.) The role of GABA is to slow the activity of neurons.

When combined with alcohol, these drugs minimize the body’s natural instinct to breathe and can cause death.

Dr. DelCampo says that even though we are in a period of extended social-isolation, there are still many resources people can turn to for support. 

See below for options if you or someone you know needs help:

Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990 or Text “TalkWithUs” to 66746

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

SAMHSA’s National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)