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How Are Those in Recovery Getting Through the Pandemic?

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

A return to normal desired

The COVID-19 pandemic has been underway for several weeks now in America, and states are beginning to explore the possibility of resuming normal operations. Temperatures are beginning to rise as people grow weary of stay-at-home orders and the stresses that come along with them.

This desire to return to normalcy has led to protests, many of which contain angry citizens who may be business owners or unemployed people who want to be allowed to keep working.

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A return to normal desired

In Michigan, this led to hundreds of people descending on the state capitol building demanding to be let in. Some of them were visibly carrying guns. This show of public outrage shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt many people, and not just those who contracted the virus. Among these are people who struggle with substance use disorder, or SUD.

A problematic pandemic

Many people who’ve gotten off drugs and were in recovery have fallen victim to the pandemic by relapsing. Stress is one of the primary triggers for relapse among people who are in recovery, so it’s no surprise that we’re starting to get word from communities that those in recovery aren’t doing well with the isolation. Like nearly all American healthcare systems, the rehabilitation and recovery industry is a dated model that was not constructed with infectious disease prevention in mind.

Based on the concept that group support is effective in helping people conquer addiction, virtually all models of substance abuse treatment feature either group meetings, sessions, or living arrangements. This is even truer for recovery support, which usually takes place after treatment and many people depend on it to maintain sobriety. The predominant model is Alcoholics Anonymous and its subsets like Narcotics Anonymous. Because of COVID-19, these are no longer options for many people.

We’re starting to see the results of this, as reports of spikes in overdose deaths since COVID-19 arrived have begun to cause concerns. But not everyone is struggling or relapsing, and many in the recovery community have adapted and found new ways to stay connected during these times. And while some treatment centers have closed their doors, others have remained open to provide this essential service to the country.

Potential solutions

AA has posted a website that gives instructions on how people can host their own virtual meetings, as well as a list of meetings others are hosting, which you can join on various platforms like Zoom. This means that anyone who wants to attend a meeting at least has some access or can start one up among their local group members without violating stay-at-home orders and social distancing recommendations. Many people are turning to this as an option to get that group connectedness.

Others are utilizing Telehealth and seeing doctors, and psychiatrists, and participating in treatment sessions of a variety of formats. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has started its own substance abuse telehealth program, where people can undergo everything from medical assessments to group therapy at home. It includes multiple check-ins throughout the day with doctors and nurses, as well as support for medication-assisted approaches.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

As you can see, there are options that people can use for support instead of relapsing. Just because we’re social distancing, doesn’t mean we cannot stay connected with the people in our lives that help us. Hopefully, things will start to relax, and we can resume the full network of care we need if it’s safe to do so. Until then, we must continue to give support to those who struggle with addiction and be creative in our approach to giving them the assistance they need.

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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.