The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives and overtaxed our healthcare system. The pandemic has created a nearly perfect storm of increased stressors and decreased resources for people with pre-existing conditions, especially addictions.
Because of the pandemic, people with substance abuse problems have missed recovery meetings, in-person support groups, and opportunities for intensive treatment. Here’s a closer look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the addiction recovery section of the healthcare system.
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Changes to addiction treatment facilities
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected how addiction treatment facilities take care of patients to reduce virus transmission. For example, non-residential recovery program standards can help people with addictions receive the treatments they need without worrying about increasing their risk of contracting COVID-19.
With non-residential programs, intake protocol involves questions about possible exposure risks. People deemed at-risk will not be allowed into the program for the day. Patients and their caregivers follow social distancing rules. Non-residential treatment centers also rely on increased sanitation and PPE protocols.
The economy is troublesome for people with addictions
When people struggle with addiction, they often have other stressors elsewhere in their lives. Researchers have found connections between economic problems and drug use, especially in areas of the country with fewer employment opportunities.
With fewer jobs, more economic struggles, and decreased treatment opportunities, the likelihood of addiction recovery becomes more problematic. COVID-19 caused a recession and saddled millions of Americans with medical bills or days out sick, meaning that economic stressors could be multiplying for those struggling with addiction.
Increases in childhood addiction
Children around the United States have had significant disruptions to their routines with school closures and family issues. Many have suffered from food insecurities and abuse in addition to missing out on milestones like prom and graduation.
Because of the social changes, boredom, and lack of family support, some teens have turned to drug abuse. This substance abuse results from the perfect storm of emotional consequences of the pandemic combined with a lack of regular support systems who might notice the change, such as friends and teachers.
Stressful situations create more opportunities for overdoses
People who have histories of addiction can reactivate their usage in extreme stress. With the pandemic creating new challenges at every corner, more people are overdosing in an attempt to cope with mounting pressure. According to reports, more people overdosed in 2020 compared to 2019 and other recent pre-pandemic years. Most states reported more opioid-related deaths after the pandemic began.
Virtual meetings and telehealth helping with treatment
A positive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase in telemedicine. Through computer screens, some people with substance abuse issues have been able to work with their healthcare providers without compromising their safety. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have meetings through virtual services.
Fortunately, most insurance companies cover telehealth services. The increased availability has become a lifeline for people who need face-to-face help but cannot visit a clinic or physician in person.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people get their routine health care. People who need support for their addiction recovery have turned to online resources and non-residential care to reduce potential exposure to the dangerous virus.