The COVID-19 pandemic has made it hard for many people to help protect their loved ones from overdose. Fragmented access to lifesaving medical and behavioral health resources and depression and anxiety over health and economic security have created the perfect storm for relapse and overdose. In the beginning of the pandemic, overdoses increased over 42 percent compared to the prior year’s numbers.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that more than 19,000 people died of a drug overdose in the first three months of 2020, nearly 3,000 more than the same time period in 2019. At the same time, the American Medical Association reports that over 40 states are expressing concerns about soaring overdose fatality. Although SAMHSA and the DEA have made it easier to access medication-assisted treatment during the pandemic, some states have been slow to take advantage of these regulatory changes. It has also been harder for many treatment centers to keep up with infection-control standards that prevent their clients or staff from catching the virus.
So, what does this have to do with you and the person you care about who is struggling with addiction or feeling vulnerable in recovery? You can know all the numbers and all the trends, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re filled with anxiety about the possibility of your family member of friend relapsing or overdosing during these challenging times. How can you help your loved one avoid overdose in the age of social distancing? Here are some insights that may help you.
“Be There” without Being There
Call them every day. If necessary, be annoying about getting together over video conferencing (Zoom, Google Meets, Skype, etc.). It’s better to be able to see them every day because you can identify physical changes in their appearance that can indicate drug use. Some of the more common physical signs of drug addiction may include:
- Breakouts and Skin Discoloration
- Tooth Decay and Other Dental Issues
- Extreme Changes in Weight
- Bags or Circles under the Eyes
Behavioral signs may include dirty or shaggy appearance, tired or anxious disposition and more. Video conferencing calls are an opportunity to identity these alarming signs in your friend or loved one, so you can at least know what’s going on in their lives, and whether or not they’ve been using.
Reach Out to Other Members of their “Pod”
If anyone is empowered to help your loved one avoid overdose, it’s the people with whom they’ve been sharing a living space during the pandemic. If, through video calls and phone conversations, you’ve become convinced that there’s an issue, reach out to other people in their pod or bubble to see what can be done from afar. Try scheduling a virtual intervention or coming up with a plan to keep a closer eye on them. It’s also important to remember that, if they’re coming and going as they please and reaching out to random people to buy drugs, they’re probably not taking COVID precautions very seriously, so it’s important to keep yourself and the rest of your family safe.
Try Socially Distanced Hangouts with Just the Two of You
Sometimes a regular distraction from life under the pandemic and a feeling of normalcy can help prevent your loved one from relapsing and overdosing. If you live close to them, try encouraging them to get out more. Go for socially distanced walks or meet up at a park for outside lunch or coffee. In places like Florida, where Recovery Unplugged has locations in Lake Worth and Fort Lauderdale, it’s practically always “outside weather”. Try looking for places that offer outdoor dining and make sure the two of you have had a recent negative COVID-19 test result, both rapid and PCR, if possible.
Start Researching Treatment Options on Your Own
Doing homework is never a bad idea. It helps you to understand what treatment options are a available, what kinds of care your loved one might need and the logistics involved with getting them into a program. Try and find out what kind of insurance they have and get as many answers as you can. Coordinate these efforts with other members of their pods to cover as much ground as possible. Spend a few hours researching treatment centers in their area and finding out what precautions they’re taking during the pandemic to keep their clients safe while continuing to provide care.
Let Recovery Unplugged Help You Protect Your Loved One from Overdose
It’s hard to shield your loved one from overdose even in normal times. The pandemic has made these efforts even more complicated, but you still may be more empowered than you realize to make a difference. Recovery Unplugged is ready to work with you and the rest of your family to guide your addicted loved one toward treatment, whether they’re already in recovery and have relapsed or if their substance use is getting worse. We have gone above and beyond to preserve safety and infection control standards during the pandemic while still offering quality care. While overdoses may be up, we have still managed to provide care for over 2,300 people this year.
Recovery Unplugged offers detox and withdrawal management for acute symptoms, as well as long-term behavioral rehab to help your loved one with underlying emotional issues. We accept most major insurances and offer multiple levels of care to help your family member heal according to their care needs and lifestyle. Don’t wait until it’s too late to get help for the person you care about. Contact Recovery Unplugged now to help your loved one start treatment.