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Dangers Increase with Less Restriction

Marcel Gemme By Marcel Gemme | Last Updated: 6 June 2024

Changing with the times

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered many aspects of how our society operates. These changes are focused on maintaining the activities of our daily lives while simultaneously flattening the curve of the virus.

One of the most popular coping mechanism has been the integration of video chat and call services. Becoming more and more standard is the utilization of these services in the healthcare industry.

  • What You'll Learn

It makes sense, as many appointments do not require face-to-face communication with a physician. However, this new operating basis is creating a problematic situation for those in addiction recovery. Most notably for those at the beginning stages of their sobriety.

Importance of aftercare

Aftercare in rehabilitation is hands down the most crucial part of the process. This is the time when individuals are on their own. No longer in a controlled environment, recently released patients are tasked with putting everything they learned in their treatment program into use. Something that is much easier said than done.

As a former professional at a drug and rehabilitation, I can recall countless instances of individuals who struggled with this transition. It was not uncommon to receive calls from concerned parents and loved ones within days of an individual’s program completion stating the person had relapsed.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to this, but one of the biggest reasons for this outcome was that the individual did not follow through with their aftercare plan. The transition back to the “real world” after rehab needs to be taken on a gradient. That is why the majority of post-treatment exit plans consist of face-to-face meetings with counselors or other professionals to ensure the individual is handling the switch successfully—emphasis on face-to-face.

Importance of face-to-face

The reason for this is that there are certain aspects of adequately assessing an individual that can only be done when they are actually in front of you. Perhaps video calls provide a better litmus test than a phone call, but it still does not offer the best opportunity to assess the patient truly. It’s not that it is impossible to get an accurate evaluation from a distance, but it is more complicated. This inability to accurately assess someone does not only put the individual at risk but depending on the type of treatment they are receiving, it could put them at risk of overdose and death.

COVID-19’s effect on restrictions

One of the more popular treatment methods for substance abuse is the use of maintenance drugs. This controversial treatment involves putting individuals on a prescription version of their drug of choice. The two most popular of these drugs are methadone and suboxone. Both of these drugs carry the risk of overdose and death. While many view them as dangerous, the only thing that made them palatable was the intense restrictions put on them. Unfortunately, new policies to stop the spread of COVID-19 have drastically reduced these restrictions.

Individuals who were once required to meet with a counselor daily to receive medication are now being given a month’s supply. They are being allowed to fill them after a phone call or a video chat. This access presents a risk to anyone in recovery, but this danger is heightened for individuals just starting their recovery. The same stressors that make early recovery so hard might be the same factors that cause an individual to abuse the drug that is supposed to be keeping them “sober.” Given how powerful these drugs are, it puts an already vulnerable individual in a dangerous situation.

Reactions and Future Implications

An even more significant concern is that some are celebrating these practices. There has been a call to loosen restrictions on maintenance drugs for quite some time to no avail. Some people credit COVID-19 with forcing the industry to make these changes and hope they will remain intact even after this pandemic is under control. Knowing what we know about addiction recovery, this may do more harm than good.

Regardless of your stance on using these medications, it’s not a stretch to believe that increased access to them may prove to be catastrophic. It is important to note that many individuals who suffer from substance abuse misused medication in the first place. Giving individuals access to large amounts of narcotics right after putting in time and money to reverse their cycle of addiction is counterproductive and dangerous.

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Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. He also dealt with the families and friends of those people; he saw first-hand how much strain addiction puts on a family and how it can tear relationships apart. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.