The Challenges of Addiction Recovery in a COVID-19 World
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No matter the degree, the arrival of COVID-19 has affected the life of every person in America in one way or another. For some, it has led to job loss. Others have had to cancel plans they have had for years due to closed travel opportunities. And for many who struggle with addictions to drugs and alcohol, it has restricted the help they need to stay clean.
Addiction recovery is a long and difficult process, but with supportive groups, helpful friends, and medical establishments available to assist, there can be a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, many of these factors have been reduced or taken away entirely due to the coronavirus. But this doesn’t have to be the end. There are still many ways that addicts and their families can work together to find recovery and a suitable existence during the pandemic. Let’s look at the current situation and what can be done.
Current Issues for Addicts
This is not an easy time for anyone, especially those who are struggling with addiction. Many of us have had to deal with the same negative side effects of the virus, such as isolation and reduced access to medical care, and to an addict, these issues can be especially damaging.
For instance, many of us are dealing with an unending amount of stress, and when it becomes too much to handle, we can turn to the substances that we think will make us feel better. While the idea of a pandemic alone is a lot to handle, there are many other things that may cause us to lose sleep. Some worry about the validity of the new vaccine and need help to cope. College kids who are scared that they won’t get the education they sorely need may turn to alcohol. With 23 million Americans experiencing a substance use disorder, these, or many other negative thoughts, could be the tipping point to relapse.
Another stressor is unemployment due to the pandemic. Many customer-oriented businesses had to shut their doors in order to follow safety guidelines, and that meant layoffs across many sectors. Those who have been out of a job for a long time may experience the side effects associated with chronic unemployment, which can include a constant feeling of rejection and desperation that could turn them towards drugs. After a relapse, getting a new job can be exceedingly difficult.
Of course, turning to drugs and alcohol obviously makes the situation worse. These dangerous substances can make us feel good in the short term, but with continued use, they can create feelings of fear and anxiety, and more drugs will not make that go away. Also, when some people use substances to cope, they forget about healthy coping mechanisms like exercise, sleep, and counseling and instead continue the use of those substances. It can be a never-ending cycle.
For many, this COVID-19 world has exasperated these challenges of addiction recovery and brought them to a whole new level.
What Addicts Can Do
As we see, there are many factors associated with COVID-19 that can make addiction recovery an uphill battle. Unfortunately, there is another negative side effect to the pandemic, and it is that with hospitals and treatment centers focusing on the virus, there are fewer resources available for addicts who need help right now. Even if medical establishments do have vacancies, many people are now low on funds due to the current economic situation, and many may have lost their company-provided health insurance as well.
With all of these contributing factors, those struggling with recovery may have to turn to alternative solutions. For instance, many people with back pain have become addicted to opiates, and they take prescriptions like methadone to avoid relapse. However, with many clinics closed or with limited operating hours, those with back pain may have to try another approach until they get what they need. This could mean obtaining a new mattress made specifically for those with back pain or trying home remedies, including ice and heat packs, stretching, and medicated creams.
Now more than ever, it is important to practice self-care and keep your mind free of negative thoughts that can lead them back to those dangerous substances. Start an exercise program using workout videos, or go jogging or hiking outside and get some much-needed fresh air. This is also a great time to try a new hobby or interest. Activities like woodworking or online courses can keep your mind occupied, and a new pursuit will give you great purpose outside of a bottle.
What Society Can Do
With the knowledge that challenges of addiction recovery during COVID-19 is a problem, we need to do more to help those who are struggling, both on a professional and individual level. We should want to lift up those dealing with addiction, not only for moral reasons but to get people feeling better so they can live fulfilling lives and thus can go back to work and keep our economy chugging along. In addition, when drug addiction goes down, so does the crime rate, which means less jail time. Prisons are a waste of our tax money and a drain on our national resources, which could be going to so many better places.
One of the best resources for recovering addicts is group therapy sessions where people can feel like they are not alone and can talk out their problems. Due to social distancing, these groups are less frequent, but it doesn’t mean that all treatment centers need to cease operations. Instead, they can turn to individual sessions or even telehealth where group meetings can still occur digitally as everyone stays safe at home. On top of that, medical facilities could modify their procedures for providing medication and consider refills without the need for a physical visit by the patient.
Those with friends that are having an especially difficult time should lend a hand and an ear. Just being in the proximity of an addict to listen to their story and be empathetic to their plight can help take some of the weight off of their shoulders. If they haven’t tried the services offered by a treatment center, then recommend one. Don’t let the idea that they may be closed due to the pandemic affect the decision to seek help. Most of these facilities are still available in at least a limited capacity, or they can recommend additional services.
While we may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the COVID-19 pandemic is still leaving an impression on our lives. Addicts who need help must seek it out, and family members should be there to support them. Together we will get through these tough times.
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