Staying Clean in the Face of COVID: Addiction Treatment Clinics Struggle to Keep Up with COVID-19
Under the best of circumstances, loneliness and anxiety exact a heavy price on your mental health. But when you combine the heavy burden of life under a pandemic lockdown with another weighty load, that of addiction, the weight can feel unbearable.
In fact, experts worry that self-isolation is going to put people with substance abuse disorder (SUD) at significant risk of relapse. But relapse doesn’t have to happen. Addiction centers and healthcare providers working hard to find new ways to help patients fight an old battle.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, just know you are not alone, even in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
Why It Matters
The opioid crisis has received a lot of media attention in recent years. But not many people really appreciate or understand the scope of the problem. It’s estimated that every 19 minutes in America, someone dies of an opioid overdose. That’s nearly 150 deaths in the United States every single day.
And when you are fighting the monster of addiction, one of your fiercest weapons is your recovery support system. Gathering with others who are also in recovery can help you to summon the inner resources you need to stay sober another day. After all, when you are in recovery, you’re not only accountable to yourself. You’re also accountable to them.
But it’s not only the social aspect of recovery that matters. It’s the physiological aspect as well. Anyone who has ever been through it knows that the physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be both excruciating and dangerous.
Millions of people with substance abuse disorder require daily treatment with prescribed, but rigorously controlled, medications, such as methadone and suboxone. But in the face of a resurgence of infection rates, a lot of addicts might be wondering how much longer they’ll have access to their medications at all, or even if it’s safe enough to travel to a clinic or treatment center to pick them up.
The Role of Telehealth in Addiction Recovery
As formidable as the challenge of staying sober during a global pandemic may be, addicts are certainly no stranger to overcoming tough times. What it takes, though, is a plan and, not surprisingly, a lot of support.
The good news is that you don’t even have to leave your house to find the support you need. Telemedicine was created to increase access to healthcare for those who need it.
And now, in the age of coronavirus, it’s truly proving its mettle, including its value in helping addicts ensure continuity of treatment and access on-demand support, anytime and anywhere they may need it. You can even attend virtual meetings if your regular meetings are cancelled or you just feel unsafe attending in person.
Routine virtual check-ins with your healthcare provider may also help you work together to create a plan for you to safely stock up on your treatment medications and limit the number of times you have to venture out to a pharmacy or addiction center.
Treatment Center Preparations
As this pandemic drags on and states swing between various stages of lockdown, you might begin to feel that maintaining your sobriety is something you just can’t manage at home, at least not for the long term.
Thankfully, you don’t have to. Addiction treatment centers are still open for business. Like the rest of us, though, they’re facing some extraordinary challenges right now. And it’s important to ensure that the treatment center you choose is prepared not only to support your recovery but also to protect your health, the health of the other patients, and the health of the staff.
That means that there are a number of things you need to look out for. In addition to practicing meticulous cleaning and sanitation, of course, the center should also have protocols in place for quarantining patients who fall ill or have been exposed. People with SUD are particularly vulnerable to exposure because addicts are also significantly more likely to suffer from housing insecurity or homelessness. Being both without a reliable and safe shelter-in-place option, and then when you combine that with the immuno-compromise that comes with addiction, and you have a perfect recipe not only for contracting the virus but for experiencing bad outcomes when you do.
That’s why it’s incumbent on treatment centers to ensure they have measures in place to track where patients and visitors have been, to restrict access to the facility, and to ensure that patients who have been in high-risk areas are quarantined until the risk of community exposure.
The war on and with addiction is long. So, too, it seems, is our new war with COVID-19. But you, your patients, and those you love don’t have to lose either battle. It all boils down to fighting not harder, perhaps, but certainly a lot smarter.