COVID-19 and Addiction a Deadly Combination
COVID-19 is causing havoc everywhere, but if you have an addiction or you love someone who does, this is a really scary situation. Here is why.
No sugarcoating: Addicts who get COVID-19 are at greater risk for complications and death. As stated in an article by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this virus attacks the lungs, so addicts who vape or smoke tobacco or marijuana are at high risk. Methamphetamines and opioids deteriorate respiratory and pulmonary health, so users of these drugs are at high risk too. Chronic alcoholism compromises health in a myriad of ways, including high blood pressure and damage to the heart, other co-morbidity factors for COVID-19.
Regardless of the type of substance, every addict is unhealthy by any definition. Anyone who has used for a long period of time is practically on death’s doorstep already, if we want to be really honest here. Adding an aggressive and dangerous virus to this precarious hold on life may be a death sentence for an addict.
Although I have not seen any studies to prove it, I am also going to suggest that addicts are more likely to contract the virus. People in active addiction are more likely to be living on the fringes. Some are homeless and many are nearly so. Personal hygiene? – not so much. Access to health care is limited. Addicts don’t think clearly or regulate their behavior. They are not accountable to themselves or to others. They are focused on feeding their addiction, not on staying healthy and safe. They are not reading and following the guidance of health officials, that’s for damn sure.
Except for one thing. They are probably isolating to a degree, certainly emotionally. Addicts already isolate emotionally, because feeling alone is their normal, and they have often burned relationship bridges. The isolation only amplifies and feeds the addiction. So ironically, if someone in addiction is adhering to the pandemic-times advice to quarantine and reduce exposure to others, that behavior only exacerbates their addiction.
At this time, even if an addict does not contract COVID-19, there remains a stronger chance their addiction will take them out. Because of quarantines and distancing rules, “users who adopted harm reduction techniques and had been using drugs with a friend are now using them alone, and there is no one nearby who could administer naloxone or call 911 in the event of an overdose.” Recent reports also suggest an increase in lethal drugs circulating due to border shutdowns. “Health experts are warning that restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border due to COVID-19 could limit the illegal drug supply, leading to more adulterated and toxic substances on the street.”
Unprecedented Times = Immense Need for Support
People in recovery are at risk too. This pandemic feeling of isolation and separation from others creates a dangerous situation. Isolation and anxiety are huge triggers for drug use and relapse. People in recovery rely on new skills and behaviors, such as building positive social supports, to navigate life without the crutch of drugs. But the COVID-19 pandemic erodes access to these supports – even as it increases fear, anxiety, and the NEED for such supports. Formal networks like AA, CA, and NA are unable to meet in person, although many are meeting virtually. Virtual meetings help but are not a sufficient antidote to the loss of connection. Supportive individuals in a person’s private network may also only be available by phone or Zoom.
Never in recent history has there been a time when treatment for addiction and support for those in recovery is more important. The pandemic is ramping up the need for treatment and support, while simultaneously obstructing access to it. Travel has become limited and challenging. Some treatment centers have closed and others have reduced capacity to meet physical distancing requirements. People suddenly have lost their jobs or fear that could happen soon, so they don’t have the resources to access services as they did before. Free government services are already stretched with long backlogs and that will likely worsen. It is good that outpatient treatment has become available virtually, but the honest truth is that outpatient treatment is not always enough, especially in the crucial first stages of confronting addiction. Many people need the immersive re-set that only residential treatment can provide.
But despite all this, there is hope.
14 Day “Booster” Program
We know it’s more important than ever that people get quality treatment. For our part, we are doing what we can to respond to this situation. First, we have altered our capacity, programs, and procedures to continue to provide the highest quality treatment in a safe way. Second, we have added a 14 day, Recovery Refresh Program for people who are already in recovery but who are struggling right now and need a solid-reset. This comes at a lower price point than the longer programs and can keep people early in their recovery journey on track during these stressful times. We also continue to offer aftercare follow up calls to our past clients as well as our traditional 30 to 90-day residential programs.