Substance Abuse Expert on How COVID-19 Can Lead to Addiction

Nicholas Mathews has been featured on KMVT-CBS in Idaho and KSBY 6 in California and in Pharmacy Times. A former heroin addict, Nicholas understands the support and personalized care to help those struggling with substance addiction and mental health disorders.

By Nicholas Mathews, substance abuse expert, recovered addict, and the founder of Stillwater Behavior Health treatment facility

The statistics are, as they say, sobering. According to the Centers for Disease Control, (which was recognized in the 2020 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program), fatal overdoses have risen 500% in just over two decades.

In 2019, the year before the pandemic began, 70,980 people died of a drug overdose, roughly 5% more than the year before; the number was 100,000 in the twelve months ended in May 2021.

Estimates are that 911 calls for opioid-related overdoses increased 250% between 2019 and early 2020. And according to a Seattle Times report, in the state of Washington, so-called “deaths of despair”–a catch-all metric created by two Princeton economists that includes drug overdoses, suicide, and alcoholic liver disease–outnumbered deaths attributed to COVID last year.

(In recent years, life expectancy in the US has been dropping. A significant contributor to that drop has been deaths of despair. Drug overdoses and suicides have increased in tandem with the opioid crisis, and the outcome is shorter lives. Today we’ll talk about these tragic deaths and what we might do about them. Courtesy of Healthcare Triage and YouTube. Posted on Aug 13, 2020.)

What I’ve seen at my treatment centers, Stillwater Behavioral Health, is no less disturbing.

As both a caregiver and former addict, I can say that COVID is making addiction an even larger–and perhaps more intractable–problem.

Over the past two years, I’ve seen patients who seem unconcerned about COVID, its consequences, or anything else. They are prioritizing their addiction above COVID prevention. This is understandable to a degree, but if we accept COVID as “the new normal,” we must begin to appreciate how it can lead to more addiction–and more tragedy.


If you need a bellwether for addiction in general, look no further than the sale of alcohol, which has risen to 16% monthly since pre-pandemic days. Worse, liquor is flying off the shelves more than twice as fast as beer and wine.

We know that when people are alone, they often feel disconnected or just plain bored. And with so many Americans working and living at home, the temptation to take the edge off more often is understandable.  Meanwhile, the spirits industry is indulging home drinkers with hard seltzer and lines of pre-made cocktails.

We often hear people say they “deserve” a drink after a long day or a stressful week, and who isn’t having those lately? But one topic that isn’t focused on heavily is the addictive nature of alcohol.

Alcohol use disorders, more commonly known as alcohol dependence or alcoholism, impact approximately 14.5 million people, according to a 2019 study. This same study found that one in four individuals over the age of 18 binge drink, which can be a contributing factor in the development of alcoholism.


As we all know, alcohol is a depressant. Drinking rarely takes us to the happier, more carefree state of mind that we’d all like to experience. Often it takes us somewhere darker and angrier. When we begin using substances as a salve, the leap from a drink to a pill is not far.

When we lean on anything to lighten our mood, including anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, or painkillers, the temptation to use more can seem overwhelming. We blame the drug for not doing its job then take more.

Thanks to lockdowns and widespread fear of infection, many of us are missing out on simple pleasures that kept depression at bay–from eating out with friends to seeing movies, going to the gym, traveling, or even catching a random stranger’s smile.

Sadly, alcohol and drugs may seem like the only way “out” at the moment, but relying on a substance to feel better is typically a dead end.

(Learn More. Dr. Arthur Bregman, the former chief of psychiatry at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, wants to get everyone more involved in dealing with mental health. Courtesy of CBS Miami and YouTube. Posted on Feb 15, 2022.)


Remember when the first vaccine was announced? It probably seems like an eternity ago. Back then, we expected to be back to normal within months, yet, more than a year later, millions have not returned to the office, thousands of schools remain closed and new regulations seem to be announced daily.

Indeed, we’re increasingly being told by all kinds of people–from public-health experts to billionaires–that masks and boosters and constant tests are the new normal.

For some, including those who have experienced long-term symptoms of the virus, living with COVID seems like a hopeless situation. And nothing foments addiction quite like feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Vicious Cycle

COVID, for many of us and for many reasons, has become a vicious cycle leading inexorably to addiction. It has taken us on a journey from feeling alienated to depressed to hopeless and, finally, to believe that we are simply victims. However, I think it’s important to emphasize that the pandemic is a shared experience.

If you’re still around, you’re a survivor! If you’re not in a hospital, you have to be willing to show up for others who are not so fortunate. Millions of Americans have quit working since COVID began, some to care for others or protect themselves. The rest of us should be reminded that our COVID issues are not the most significant.

If we have to work from home or skip a vacation, we’re still among the lucky ones! And the best way to fight feelings of loneliness, depression, and despair is by helping others.

One of the biggest lessons we teach at Stillwater is the ability to transcend victimhood. We’re not victims. Like addiction, COVID is real and, if left unchecked, it may change who we are.

But self-victimization is a state of mind that is all too often used to justify self-destructive behavior. When we transcend that mindset and take control of our lives, we will truly be free.

About the Author

Nicholas Mathews is a founder of Stillwater Behavioral Health, a Dual Diagnosis treatment facility that personalizes care to help those struggling to recover from substance addiction and mental health disorders.

Nicholas Mathews, founder of Stillwater Behavioral Health
Nicholas Mathews, founder of Stillwater Behavioral Health

Mathews abused opioids at a young age before becoming a heroin addict at age 16. It was only when he developed a life-threatening liver condition that he realized he needed to get clean.

After succeeding, he dedicated his life to guiding others into sobriety, becoming a consultant for various treatment facilities. This work made him determined to fix deficiencies in clinical care and boost the overall effectiveness of treatment programs.

That’s when Stillwater was born. He intends to grow the facility to help even more people regardless of their socioeconomic background. He currently studies at Harvard Business School online.

Are you in crisis or concerned about someone?

If you have been thinking about suicide, it is important to get help right away. If you need to talk with someone right now, resources are available 24/7.

veterans crisis linePlease call the Veterans Crisis Line to reach caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs, (many of them are Veterans themselves), at 1-800-959-8277.

For survivors in need of immediate suicide postvention support, please contact us at 800-959-8277

Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

(Listen to surviving dad Frank Larkin share lessons learned on the lookback in an effort to save lives in honor of his son, Ryan. At TAPS they say that “postvention is a critical component of any comprehensive suicide prevention strategy.” Learn about suicide risks and protective factors as well as our field-leading TAPS Suicide Postvention Model at Courtesy of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and YouTube. Posted on Oct 8, 2020.)

Frank Larkin Honored in 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program

2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Luncheon (starting front row, left to right) SIMS Software President & CEO Michael Struttmann; TENEO Risk Advisory Executive Chairman Commissioner Bill Bratton; NEC National Security Systems President Dr. Kathleen Kiernan; TSA Administrator David Pekoske; Fortior Solutions General Counsel Katherine Cowan; NEC Corporation of America Senior Vice President & Chief Experience Officer Raffie Beroukhim; TENEO Risk Advisory Chief of Staff David Cagno; Infragard National Board Member Doug Farber, Lumina Analytics Co-Founder & Chairman Allan Martin, and AMAROK Senior Vice President Sales & Marketing Mike Dorrington.
2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Luncheon (starting front row, left to right) SIMS Software President & CEO Michael Struttmann; TENEO Risk Advisory Executive Chairman Commissioner Bill Bratton; NEC National Security Systems President Dr. Kathleen Kiernan; TSA Administrator David Pekoske; Fortior Solutions General Counsel Katherine Cowan; NEC Corporation of America Senior Vice President & Chief Experience Officer Raffie Beroukhim; TENEO Risk Advisory Chief of Staff David Cagno; Infragard National Board Member Doug Farber, Lumina Analytics Co-Founder & Chairman Allan Martin, and AMAROK Senior Vice President Sales & Marketing Mike Dorrington.

American Security Today’s Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards is the preeminent U.S. Homeland Security Awards Program, and now entering it’s Seventh Year, continues to recognize industry leaders of Physical and Border Security, Cybersecurity, Emergency Preparedness – Management and Response, Law Enforcement, First Responders, as well as federal, state and municipal government agencies in the acknowledgment of their outstanding efforts to Keep our Nation Secure.

Frank Larkin

  • Excellence in Public Safety

  • In honor of Mr. Larkin’s career service to our Nation as a United States Secret Service Special Agent and First Responder to the World Trade Center; as a Navy SEAL and extraordinary leader who now leads a global effort to recognize early signs of TBI in our service members to prevent generations of grief to families and to society in the absence of these future leaders.  His efforts result from the loss of his beloved son Ryan, a Navy SEAL to suicide following repeated undiagnosed percussive injuries.

  • Navy SEAL Special Warfare Operator First Class (SO1) Ryan F. Larkin, a decorated Navy SEAL operator and explosives breacher, Ryan was regularly exposed to high-impact blast waves throughout his 10 years of service. Ryan was a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL that had served his country honorably, including four combat deployments. 

  • Ryan started experiencing headaches and other health issues and was diagnosed with PTSD. From research of him and his family it seems that his frustrations with his PTSD diagnosis, continued medication changes, and no improvement were beginning to wear thin on him.

  • Ryan was honorably discharged from the Navy and sought out continued treatment at the VA. It seems as though his frustrations with his deteriorating health continued. He suffered nightmares, insomnia, and daily headaches.

  • Ryan was vocal about his concerns and expressed that there was more going on within his brain. He also voiced that if something were to happen to him then he would like his brain to be donated to science for further research. After Ryan passed his family did just that. They had Ryan’s brain tissue donated for research.

  • It was found that the “invisible wounds of war” that are so frequently discussed were a very real part of Ryan. His brain showed Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and lesions called astroglial scarring, which are lesions closely related to blast exposures. These microscopic tears are undetectable via standard MRI or PET scan.

The Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards highlights the most cutting-edge and forward-thinking security solutions coming onto the market today, to ensure our readers have the information they need to stay ahead of the competition and keep our Nation safe – one facility, street, and city at a time.

Thomas Richardson, FDNY Chief of Department; Dr. Kathleen Kiernan, President of NEC National Security Systems; and Richard Blatus, FDNY Assistant Chief of Operations at the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Luncheon at ISC East.

AST Honors Thomas Richardson, FDNY Chief of Department; Dr. Kathleen Kiernan, President of NEC National Security Systems; and Richard Blatus, FDNY Assistant Chief of Operations, at the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Luncheon at ISC East.

The United States was forever changed 20 years ago on September 11th, and we were fortunate to have many of those who responded to those horrific tragedies join us at the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Luncheon.

In the days that followed 9/11, the critical needs of protecting our country catapulted us into new and innovative ways to secure our homeland – which is how many of the agencies and enterprise organizations that are today ‘ASTORS’ Awards Champions, came into being.

Our keynote speaker TSA Administrator David Pekoske delivered a moving and timely address on the strategic priorities of the 64,000 member TSA workforce in securing the transportation system, enabling safe, and in many cases, contactless travel, and more (Be sure to see Interview.)
TSA Administrator David Pekoske addressing attendees at the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Luncheon in New York City on November 17, 2021. (Be sure to see AST Exclusive Interview, facilitated by Dr. Kathleen Kiernan HERE.)

Our keynote speaker featured a moving and informative address from TSA Administrator and Vice-Admiral of the United States Coast Guard (Ret), David Pekoske; to our attendees who traveled from across the United States and abroad, on the strategic priorities of the 64,000 member TSA workforce in securing the transportation system, enabling safe, and in many cases, contactless travel.

Commissioner Bill Bratton signing copies of his latest work, ‘The Profession: A Memoir of Community, Race, and the Arc of Policing in America,’ at the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Presentation Luncheon. (Be sure to see AST Exclusive Interview with Comm Bratton, facilitated by Dr. Kathleen Kiernan HERE.)

Legendary Police Commissioner William Bratton of the New York Police Department, the Boston Police Department, and former Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department was also live at the event, meeting with attendees and signing copies of his latest work ‘The Profession: A Memoir of Community, Race, and the Arc of Policing in America,’ courtesy of the generosity of our 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Premier Sponsors.

The 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program was Proudly Sponsored by AMAROK, Fortior Solutions and SIMS Software, along with Returning Premier Sponsors ATI SystemsAttivo Networks, Automatic Systems, and Reed Exhibitions.

Nominations are currently being accepted for the 2022 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards at

Comprehensive List of Categories Include:

Access Control/ Identification Personal/Protective Equipment Law Enforcement Counter Terrorism
Perimeter Barrier/ Deterrent System Interagency Interdiction Operation Cloud Computing/Storage Solution
Facial/IRIS Recognition Body Worn Video Product Cyber Security
Video Surveillance/VMS Mobile Technology Anti-Malware
Audio Analytics Disaster Preparedness ID Management
Thermal/Infrared Camera Mass Notification System Fire & Safety
Metal/Weapon Detection Rescue Operations Critical Infrastructure
License Plate Recognition Detection Products COVID Innovations
Workforce Management Government Security Programs And Many Others to Choose From!

Don’t see a Direct Hit for your Product, Agency or Organization?

Submit your category recommendation for consideration to Michael Madsen, AST Publisher at:

Why American Security Today?

The traditional security marketplace has long been covered by a host of publications putting forward the old school basics to what is Today – a fast-changing security landscape.

American Security Today is uniquely focused on the broader Homeland Security & Public Safety marketplace with over 75,000 readers at the Federal, State, and local levels of government as well as firms allied to the government.

American Security Today brings forward a fresh compelling look and read with our customized digital publications that hold readers’ eyes throughout the story with cutting-edge editorial that provides solutions to their challenges.

Harness the Power of the Web – with our 100% Mobile Friendly Publications

AST puts forward the Largest and Most Qualified Circulation in Government with Over 75,000 readers on the Federal, State and Local levels.
AST puts forward the Largest and Most Qualified Circulation in Government with Over 75,000 readers on the Federal, State and Local levels.

AST Digital Publications are distributed to over 75,000 qualified government and homeland security professionals, in federal, state, local, and private security sectors.


AST Reaches both Private & Public Experts, essential to meeting these new challenges.

Today’s new generation of public safety and security experts need real-time knowledge to deal with domestic and international terrorism, lone wolf attacks, unprecedented urban violence, shifts in society, culture, and media bias – making it increasingly difficult for Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, First Responders, Military and Private Security Professionals to implement coordinated security measures to ensure national security and improve public safety.

American Security Today

These experts are from Government at the federal, state, and local level as well as from private firms allied to the government.

AST provides a full plate of topics in our AST Monthly Magazine Editions, AST Website, and AST Daily News Alerts, covering 23 Vital Sectors such as Access Control, Perimeter Protection, Video Surveillance/Analytics, Airport Security, Border Security, CBRNE Detection, Border Security, Ports, Cybersecurity, Networking Security, Encryption, Law Enforcement, First Responders, Campus Security, Security Services, Corporate Facilities, and Emergency Response among others.

AST has Expanded readership into integral Critical Infrastructure audiences such as Protection of Nuclear Facilities, Water Plants & Dams, Bridges & Tunnels, and other potential targets of terrorism.

Other areas of concern include Transportation Hubs, Public Assemblies, Government Facilities, Sporting & Concert Stadiums, our Nation’s Schools & Universities, and Commercial Business Destinations – all enticing targets due to the large number of persons and resources clustered together.

(See just a few highlights of American Security Today’s 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Presentation Luncheon at ISC East. Courtesy of My Pristine Images and Vimeo.)

To learn more about ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Award Winners solutions, please see the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ CHAMPIONS Edition Fully Interactive Magazine – the Best Products of 2021 ‘A Year in Review’.

The Annual CHAMPIONS edition includes a review of Annual ‘ASTORS’ Award Winning products and programs, highlighting key details on many of the winning firm’s products and services, including video interviews and more.

It serves as your Go-To Source throughout the year for The Best of 2021 Products and Services endorsed by American Security Today, and can satisfy your agency’s and/or organization’s most pressing Homeland Security and Public Safety needs.

From Physical Security (Access Control, Critical Infrastructure, Perimeter Protection, and Video Surveillance Cameras and Video Management Systems), to IT Security (Cybersecurity, Encryption, Data Storage, Anti-Malware and Networking Security – Just to name a few), the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ CHAMPIONS EDITION has what you need to Detect, Delay, Respond to, and Mitigate today’s real-time threats in our constantly evolving security landscape.

It also includes featured guest editorial pieces from some of the security industry’s most respected leaders, and recognized firms in the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program.

  • For a complete list of 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Award Winners, begin HERE.

For more information on All Things American Security Today, as well as the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program, please contact Michael Madsen, AST Publisher at

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To Learn More, please see his article on his personal experience of September 11, 2001, in A PERSONAL REFLECTION ON THE IMPACT OF 9/11

A Personal Reflection on the Impact of 9/11

Brought to us by Preparedness Without Paranoia

PWPORG (Preparedness Without Paranoia) is a 501(c)(3) built by law enforcement and security industry practitioners and educators to provide educational resources to kids, families and communities on safety and emergency preparedness.

Courtesy of
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Emerging as a result of hands-on experience through Kiernan Group Holdings’ community-based trainings on active shooter prevention and workplace violence, and the realization that kids are often spoken around but not directly to about safety and security.

As our nation continues to see increasing reports of violence in schools, public spaces, and even places of worship, these expert practitioners saw an important gap in resources and educational opportunities to meet the needs of our youngest and most vulnerable populations – our children.

Guided by Dr. Kathleen Kiernan, a 29-year veteran of Federal Law Enforcement, previously serving as the Assistant Director for the Office of Strategic Intelligence and Information for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), PWP designed an age appropriate series of activity books, games and puzzles for kids 4-8 to introduce skills that when learned and practiced – will last for a lifetime.

PWPORG also launched a companion digital magazine (Parents With Preparedness) to provide practical information with easy access to national level resources.

Parents With Preparedness Magazine is a FREE digital magazine filled with commonsense strategies, powerful interviews, authoritative articles, life stories, and resources to create a dialogue to educate, inform, and share best practices about preparedness and resiliency for families and communities.

Through the following efforts to name but a few,  PWPORG is taking action to provide guidance and information directly to those oftentimes most in need, to navigate through the unthinkable.

  • Social media initiatives on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram

  • PWPORG’s partnership with the Washington DC Police Foundation

  • Promoting reading circles with Police Officers and other First Responders

  • Providing downloadable FREE resources on website: The ABC’s of Preparedness and other curated resources

How to Get Involved

Be a Superhero, Make a Donation and Make a Difference

PWPORG is accepting charitable, donations, contributions and corporate/agency sponsorships to provide Safety and Emergency Preparedness Training to children’s groups in your community.

Please consider taking action to provide educational resources to kids, their families, and their communities today.

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Republished with permission by PWPORG.ORG.