When Epidemics Collide: The Effect of COVID-19 on Addiction
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people of all ages in Florida and around the world. Some are losing jobs, struggling financially, and are forced into virtual academic and employment environments. In a time when human connections are needed, social distancing and lockdowns are put into place.
Traveling was prohibited, food and household goods were in short supply due to panic buying, and many small businesses closed for good. While mental and medical health problems increased, in-person office visits were not allowed.
COVID-19 is also affecting those struggling with addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just a few months after the pandemic began, 40% of American adults struggled with increased mental health and substance abuse problems. Studies conducted on people with substance use disorders during the pandemic showed considerable spikes in the use of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl.
Not only did drug use increase, but many addiction relapses also occurred, and those who didn’t misuse alcohol or drugs in the past started during the pandemic. Overdose rates have increased too. In Florida, there are reports of a 70% increase in drug overdoses. The reasons for these alarming facts vary.
Reasons for Increased Drug Use
Each person’s situation is different, including the effects COVID-19 had on their use of drugs or alcohol. Below are some common reasons:
- Relief from fear and anxiety created by the pandemic
- Coping with increases in mental health disorder symptoms
- Loneliness due to being stuck at home alone
- Unable to attend support group meetings and social activities in-person
- A disruption in a medication-assistance program due to financial problems
It seems like everything taught to help someone maintain addiction recovery can’t happen during a nationwide epidemic like the coronavirus.
It’s not all bad news, however.
The COVID-19 epidemic forced the country to recognize a need for changes in the way people with substance use disorders receive treatment. One change came when teletherapy and telemedicine rules were adjusted to enable services to those at risk.
Improved Telehealth Services
Before COVID-19, insurance companies didn’t want to pay for teletherapy or telemedicine services. This changed during the pandemic. Mental health and addiction professionals are now meeting online with clients who can log in to their sessions from home.
Doctors can meet virtually with patients. For those with a substance use disorder, this means there doesn’t have to be a lapse in their medication schedule. They don’t have to worry if they will run out of Methadone or Suboxone or how to cope with the withdrawal symptoms during a lapse. They aren’t tempted to go back to using more dangerous, illicit drugs.
Recovery support groups like AA and NA have offered online services for a while. And the programs quickly adapted and made improvements during the pandemic.
Addiction treatment facilities are also adapting how they provide services, including outpatient therapies. Individuals can now receive these from the comfort of their homes.
Detox centers and residential treatment facilities are considered essential programs, so they remain open at all times for those who need a stricter, medically supervised environment. Unfortunately, many have had to scale back on the number of staff and services they offer, creating a hybrid treatment plan in which both in-person and virtual meetings occur.
Telehealth services are attractive to many and offer benefits.
Benefits of Telehealth Services
Coping with two epidemics has been a complicated process for America. Being able to provide telehealth services has advantages, like:
- Many people feel more comfortable meeting with a counselor or doctor virtually. Their home environment is relaxing, and some find it easier to open up about their feelings and needs while at home rather than in an unfamiliar office environment. This can reduce no-show rates.
- It is easier to meet with all family members at once when the meeting is held virtually.
- Hours of operation are more flexible and better fit the client, not the therapist or doctor.
- Teleservices are more convenient, taking away the need to find rides, childcare, and time spent away from home.
- Safety has become a priority.
- It costs less in some cases.
This Is the Beginning of Change
The addiction and COVID-19 epidemics are far from over. Much work still needs to be done to improve the delivery of services to those in need of help. Ensuring confidentiality and safety of the client, allotting more time for services, and increasing services paid for by insurance companies are crucial areas in need of attention.
Treatments for substance abuse continue to operate as they did before the coronavirus pandemic, only with enhanced options.
Improved Detox and Residential Services
Detox and residential facilities continue treating those with a substance use disorder at full capacity. By implementing improved cleaning and safety measures, anyone can receive a medication-assisted detox that eliminates the toxins of a drug from your system without the severe withdrawal symptoms.
You can continue treatment after detox in a residential environment that offers medication management, as well as therapies to help you maintain recovery.
At Haven Detox, we are open and ready to help you overcome your mental health or substance use issues. We are fortunate that we have maintained our 24/7 access to help for anyone needing help.
Whether you have questions about how the COVID-19 epidemic has affected the world of addiction and treatment services in Florida, or if you are ready to start a premier detox program, we can help.
Our admissions counselors are available 24/7 to assist you or your loved one in finding treatment. You can call us at 561-328-8627.
NIDA. 2020, September 14. Addressing the Unique Challenges of COVID-19 for People in Recovery. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2020/09/addressing-unique-challenges-covid-19-people-in-recovery
Czeisler MÉ, Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, substance use, and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic — United States, June 24-30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1external icon
Orlando Sentinel. (2020). Central Florida Drug ODs Up 70% During COVID, Report Shows. Florida drug overdoses soar during COVID, new report shows – Orlando Sentinel