Can Addiction Rates Increase During The COVID-19 Epidemic?

There is an inexorable link between COVID-19 and substance abuse, with both having the capacity to impact each other negatively – as stated by Harvard Medical School’s Peter Grinspoon. The pandemic is affecting mental health in many ways, with rising amounts of stress, anxiety and depression being observed in countries across the globe. All these conditions can also trigger substance abuse, but there are many more triggers present in this challenging moment in history.

COVID-19 And Social Isolation

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many health centers into lockdown, many rehabilitation centers are still open. This is good news for inpatients who are able to socialize with others and experience little change to their routine prior to lockdown, but for outpatients seeking the company of family and friends, it is less of a buffer. Experts at one Portland drug rehab services organization report, for instance, that social reintegration is an important part of rehabilitation for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. In times of isolation, those in recovery can lack the crucial support that simply meeting with friends or taking part in healthful activities such as group sport can provide.

COVID-19 And The Risk Of Overdose Deaths

On May 21, CNN reported that the rate of opioid deaths were down in the U.S. However, it warned that COVID-19 could change this positive trend. A report released by the Well Being Trust predicted that as many as 75,000 people in the U.S. could lose their lives because of drug or alcohol misuse or abuse and suicide owing to the pandemic. For one, those in total isolation will not have the buffer that having a friend in the vicinity able to administer naloxone would normally offer. Naloxone is a powerful treatment that can quickly reverse the effects of overdose. There is another reason that the coronavirus  is causing concern: the higher rate of unemployment. The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reports that U.S. job losses due to COVID-19 are at their highest since the Great Depression. Some 20.6 million jobs have been lost since March. Some 18 million of these jobs are expected to be regained when the pandemic ends, but there is still no clear date of exit from what for many is proving to be an enormous economic and health problem.

What Support Can Be Provided To People In Recovery From Substance Abuse?

Support is required to aid those who are struggling with substance abuse during the pandemic. Something as simple as online meetings, talks and get-togethers can help people feel that they are more united than they feel. Governments should also work to ensure that those in recovery continue to receive crucial medication. Community support in terms of providing food and other necessities can help counter the effects of economic necessity.

COVID-19 is proving to be more challenging than many imagined. It can be considered a risk for people recovering from substance abuse, owing to factors such as social isolation and job loss. Those in recovery should aim to maintain strong social connections, but state and federal governments also need to implement programs that promote social support, and the provision of treatment and basic necessities such as food.

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