Co-occurring Disorders, COVID-19, Nursing Curriculum Thread, Substance Use Disorders



  1. Fay-Hillier, Theresa DrPH, MSN, PMHCNS-BC
  2. Regan, Roseann V. PhD, APRN, BC
  3. Murphy-Parker, Dana MS, PMHNP-BC, CARN-AP, FIAAN


Abstract: Vulnerable populations such as those with substance use disorders (SUDs) are at a higher risk for early morbidities and mortalities yet are less likely to receive primary care and other necessary psychosocial services essential for comprehensive care of these clients. This need has been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence supports an increase in alcohol sales in 2020, and overdoses from illicit drugs have been reported to have more than doubled by May 2020 from the 2018 and 2019 baseline rates, and one reason for these increases is because of COVID-19. The healthcare system is overwhelmed with the cost of treating and addressing the impact of SUDs. Individuals with SUDs often meet providers who are not sufficiently prepared to address their complex issues that include co-occurring mental and physical health disorders. In addition to changes in practice, nursing education must change their curricular approach to meet the challenges in health services across the life span, and nursing education should include lessons being learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses must be prepared to recognize and screen individuals for SUDs at the undergraduate level as well as assess and treat individuals with SUDs at the advanced practice level in all areas of healthcare services. SUDs should not continue to be siloed and separated into the psychiatric-mental health nursing course within the nursing curriculum but should be addressed in multiple specialties across the curricula and include health responses in regard to the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on SUDs.