By now, the majority of people in the United States are currently practicing some form of social distancing or self-quarantine. With the fast spread of COVID-19, all areas of life have been uprooted, making it a stressful time for everyone, especially those in recovery. Most non-essential businesses have been shut down, but drug and alcohol treatment is essential now more than ever.
With waves of lockdowns spreading across the U.S., it’s easy to feel like life has come to a standstill. There’s never been a “good” time to be an addict, but with the spread of COVID-19 it’s especially dangerous for those with substance use disorders (SUDs). We’ve all heard addiction called a “disease of isolation,” and with the spread of coronavirus we’ve been encouraged to distance ourselves from others.
The country’s response to coronavirus has revealed issues inherent to our public health and healthcare infrastructure. In many ways, this can leave vulnerable communities, especially those suffering from SUDs, at increased risk during the pandemic.
COVID-19 and the Opioid Crisis
COVID-19 has sparked numerous conversations about vulnerable American communities. One community that ought to be included in the national discussion are those who suffer from opioid use disorders.
Before coronavirus, the opioid crisis was one of the biggest public health crises the United States has ever faced. However, even before COVID-19, the opioid crisis was nowhere near slowing down. With this new and deadly factor thrown into the mix, the opioid crisis may actually worsen significantly.
For those who rely on medication-assisted treatments (MAT), it is getting harder to get access to medications like suboxone and methadone. Many struggle to get access to the medications they need in order to battle their opioid use disorders.
If these individuals can’t gain access to the medications they need, it’s very likely that they will begin slipping into opioid withdrawal. Restricting access to medications, detox, and treatment increases the risk of relapse significantly, and can mean the difference between life and death.
People around the country have been encouraged to “stock up” on the medications they need, but this poses new challenges for opioid addicts. Recently the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) gave orders to dispense multiple doses for necessary medications. However, doing so can cause individuals at higher risk of relapse to abuse them.
Stockpiling opioid blockers like buprenorphine may actually increase the risk of abuse for some individuals in early recovery or still struggling with substances. Although medications like Subutex may not get users high, it has potential for abuse due to the way it interacts with the opioid receptors in the brain.
Overdosing During a Global Pandemic
One large concern many doctors and professionals have is the potential rates of overdose deaths during the pandemic. Emergency rooms are full, doctors and nurses are preoccupied, and the entire healthcare system is focused on containing COVID-19.
People struggling with substance abuse are at heightened risk of overdoses due to the tensions and anxieties that come with social distancing. This heightened stress and anxiety can cause people struggling to fall back into old habits and relapse.
Being and feeling alone increases the risk of overdose for those struggling with SUDs and opioid use disorders. For people still in active addiction and very early recovery, it can be easy to find excuses to use.
Social distancing has also made it harder for people who are struggling to feel like they are supported. Because most fellowships and support groups that foster community have been postponed, those who rely heavily on community support may feel more isolated than ever.
Those without access to medications and going into withdrawal may turn to substances, which in turn may lead to subsequent overdose. If people don’t have access to resources they need, it can cause a domino effect that leaves behind a trail of destruction.
Another factor that may impact the amount of overdose deaths we see in the future is the lack of access to naloxone. Because many places are restricting patient access, fewer people will have overdose reversal medications on hand.
How Rehabs, Treatment Centers, and Programs Help Our Communities
Many individuals in active addiction also suffer from homelessness, and a lot of positive resources are being shut down or restricted. Needle exchange programs and other helpful resources have been changing how they operate, which has had negative effects on individuals who rely on them.
Many programs have closed their doors, which means that struggling addicts don’t have access to safety supplies, food, and support systems. For some addicts, these programs were the only places where they could find hot meals and places to sleep safely.
Treatment options are becoming more and more limited as the COVID-19 cases increase across the country. This presents huge challenges considering those struggling with drugs and alcohol needs detox and treatment now more than ever.
Those in active addiction are more likely to have compromised immune systems and infections like hepatitis C and HIV. Being admitted to a medically supervised detox can prevent immunocompromised addicts from catching the virus and developing deadly complications.
Not having access to detox and treatment can also further the spread of coronavirus considering withdrawal symptoms can mask COVID-19 symptoms. When individuals go through withdrawal without medical supervision, any COVID-19 symptoms they might have may get lost or confused in the process.
Recovery Unplugged Is Open and Ready to Help
Here at Recovery Unplugged, we’ve taken precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus to our clients. If you’ve found yourself struggling with the desire to use, we’re still open and admitting clients.
COVID-19 has impacted each of our lives in unprecedented ways, and everyone is struggling to get their bearings. If you need treatment or support, our admissions team is available 24/7 and our alumni team is always ready to talk.
At Recovery Unplugged, we’re dedicated to using music to help you overcome your addictions during this stressful time. Reach out to us today to get the treatment you need and deserve.