Addiction Treatment During the COVID-19 Crisis
When the COVID-19 crisis began in late 2019/early 2020, few people imagined it would become a global pandemic. However, it has, and it is affecting nearly every part of life. For those who are struggling with addiction, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is especially dangerous. If you go to a treatment center, attend a support group meeting, or even see loved ones for support, you could now potentially result in getting sick. What can you do during this pandemic to receive the treatment or support you need? How are our partner rehabs keeping patients and staff safe? We’ve gathered information about during the COVID-19 crisis that can help you understand how to continue getting help during this time.
How Is COVID-19 Affecting Addiction Treatment?
COVID-19 is affecting addiction treatment in a number of different ways. During the height of the crisis, cities banned in-person gatherings of more than ten people. Even after this period, many people are not willing to go out in public unless they have to. Being in a room with others for any period of time is concerning. Some people don’t even want to leave their homes. The COVID-19 crisis has had an impact on nearly every aspect of addiction treatment:
Facilities are struggling to implement methods that keep staff and patients safe while still providing services. This has put stress on staff members and has made rehabs reduce or even temporarily pause some services. Additional costs and a lack of access to some resources have also forced some facilities to scale back their offerings.
On the patient side, some individuals are very concerned about entering a rehab facility at the moment. They aren’t sure living in an inpatient treatment center with other people is a good idea right now. While the patients may not leave the center and visitors may be banned, the staff still has to come and go. The goal is always to make sure that everyone inside the facility is as safe as possible.
Patients currently in an inpatient treatment program may actually be concerned about leaving. While the staff do come and go, some patients may feel safer in rehab. That’s because they’re in a place where the surfaces are professionally disinfected. Everyone is watched closely for signs of COVID, also. The idea of returning home and being responsible for their own safety can cause anxiety.
If you’re in outpatient therapy, you live at home but visit the treatment facility daily for therapy, group classes, etc. Because all of the other people in your program are also living at home, you have no idea who they are around. There are steps being taken by these facilities to ensure people are as safe as they can be despite the chaos that is going on right now. Some outpatient programs have gone online or at least partially online, which has helped. However, any time you have to be in a room with people for more than a few minutes, it can be risky. This is why it is so important to follow any guidelines set up for your protection the entirety of your stay.
The Dangers of Addiction During a Global Pandemic
The COVID-19 crisis is affecting addiction treatment in another way as well. In addition to putting a strain on rehab facilities and their staff, many people are under pressure they have never felt before:
- The pandemic has likely disrupted your normal daily routine in some way. You may be working from home or, worse, unemployed.
- Even if you still work in your office, you now have to wear a mask and be screened daily.
- If you have children, the end of their school year happened much sooner than expected. When they return to school, it will be under new guidelines.
In short, everything is different, and that’s stressful.
Dealing with this stress has led some to abusing alcohol and drugs. People are looking for ways to handle the high amount of constant stress they’re under, and drugs and alcohol are easy solutions. In fact, with many stores now offering delivery, it can be incredibly easy to get alcohol without even leaving your home.
Isolation is a Major Concern
Social distancing rules have separated you from your support system. You may not be able to visit your parents, siblings, friends, and others. These people are there for you when you’re dealing with an addiction trigger. You may feel like relapsing because of all the stress, but the best you can do is talk to someone on the phone. That’s not to say that phone calls don’t help—they certainly can. However, it’s not quite the same as getting a hug or being held while you deal with your emotions.
The isolation, the feeling of hopelessness, and the stress of the COVID-19 crisis are all triggers for addiction. If you recognize that you’re slipping into addiction or are close to relapsing, we hope you reach out to us. We will connect you with one of our rehab partners to get help in a safe environment.
What Should an Addiction Treatment Center Be Doing to Keep Patients Safe?
There are a number of different things an addiction treatment center should do to protect patients, staff, and anyone who visits the center.
- Understand the symptoms of COVID-19 – Treatment centers should keep up with the latest information about COVID-19, including its symptoms and how it presents.
- Screen for symptoms – The center should screen all new potential clients before they are admitted. Patients should provide all necessary information, including if they have had any symptoms of COVID-19 and if they have been in contact with anyone who has the virus.
- Follow CDC guidelines – The treatment center needs to follow all of the Centers for Disease Control guidelines. They should implement any new guidelines that are released.
- Utilize other methods of communication where possible – Staff members should conduct interviews, conferences, and even therapy sessions over the phone or video conferencing whenever they can. The treatment center should also consider using contactless delivery and other methods to cut down on as much interpersonal contact as possible.
- Monitor clients and staff for symptoms daily – Everyone who comes into the center should have their temperature taken. Staff should monitor patients for signs of COVID and should report any symptoms they have.
The most important thing we ask our rehab partners to do during the COVID-19 crisis is to take it seriously. With the appropriate measures, the spread of the virus can be greatly reduced. While some of these measures may be inconvenient, being safe is the top priority.
How Are Rehabs Utilizing Technology During this Crisis?
As we mentioned earlier, our treatment centersare doing everything they can to keep patients and potential patients as safe as possible. One way they are doing this is by using technology to socially distance. New patients are being interviewed over the phone or via a video chat program such as Zoom. Outpatient programs are utilizing these options, too. Patients can meet with their therapists from the safety of their own homes instead of traveling to the office or rehab center.
Even support groups for aftercare are going virtual. While most people agree that meeting in person has more of an impact, they also agree that any type of support is better than no support at all.
Technology also helps keep those with dual diagnoses safe. You can have any medication you need for your co-occurring condition delivered to your doorstep instead of picking it up at the pharmacy. You can even make use of contactless grocery delivery, so you don’t even have to interact with the delivery personnel. All of these options will help keep you safe while still allowing you to get the help you need to battle your addiction and remain sober.
What Should You Do?
If you’re recovering from addiction, here are a few things you can do to keep up with your treatment while remaining safe:
- Don’t let yourself become totally isolated. Even if you can’t see your loved ones in person, make it a point to call or text them daily. Set up family video calls or host virtual game nights with friends. Don’t spend hours alone at home.
- Go for a walk. It’s fine to walk around the block or go for a run as long as you stay six feet from others. Being out in the sunlight can help improve your mood. Being inside for too long can also affect your Vitamin D levels, so you need to go outside even if it’s just to sit in the sun.
- Reach out to your therapist, sponsor, or other professional if you’re struggling. Everyone is having a difficult time right now, so don’t dismiss your concerns. If you feel lonely, isolated, and craving drugs or alcohol, call for help. Now, more than ever, it’s important that you don’t try to combat these feelings on your own.
- Don’t put off treatment. If you haven’t been to a treatment facility yet, but realize you need help, don’t use the pandemic as an excuse to put it off. Our partners are doing everything they can to make it safe for patients. The longer you put off getting help, the more likely it is that you return to abusing drugs.
- Remember there are online options. You can reach out to several social media or online support groups, reach out to the alumni group from your rehab, or even attend online meetings so that you have people there when you need them to be. This keeps you safe and gives you the support that recovery requires.
While the COVID-19 crisis has certainly changed how addiction treatment is provided, we are still here to help those in need. Reach out today to us at Find The Best Rehabs, your therapist, your friends, or your family if you’re feeling the urge to use drugs or alcohol.