COVID-19 and Addiction: A Recipe for Disaster

April 15th, 2022

The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has without a doubt brought a myriad of problems for our big beautiful blue planet. The economy has taken a hit over layoffs, where tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs, supply-chain stalls have driven the price of certain commodities through the roof, and who can forget about- “toilet paper-gate”. On a side note; seriously, toilet paper? Our healthcare system and healthcare workers are seeing a massive rise in patient care, and a decline in their own health and wellness also. Undoubtedly, one major affect COVID-19 has taken its toll on is Substance Abuse. 

As the dust settles from the initial introduction of the pandemic, we’re presented with COVID’s underlying issues. Through science we learn cause and effect. With the rise in COVID’s precautionary list (the cause), came a rise in COVID’s aftermath (the effect). As mentioned above, one of the communities affected by this aftermath, is the SUD (substance use disorder) community. Within the recovery community there are precautionary guidelines. These guidelines keep the person suffering from SUD safe and engaged in recovery. It is impertinent for a successful rehabilitation into society that the addict stays on track with these guidelines. These guidelines include but aren’t limited to, Attending meetings, integration into a social network, assimilation within the recovery community (friends in the fight), and communication between sponsors and sponsee’s.  It doesn’t take much to start putting two and two together to see that COVID-19 and its precautions can be and have been detrimental to the recovery process.  

THE MEAT AND POTATOES 

Often, we see that someone suffering from SUD will “use” as a reaction to negative stimulation. Whether it be economic, emotional, or physical the negative impact will potentially, and in most cases, drive the user to use.  

Social Distancing. We all know what this phrase means by now. How couldn’t you, its plastered on every grocery store, floor, door, and I’m sure if someone could get a child to hold still long enough- they would put a sign on them as well.  

A key component of recovery is the community itself. Being part of the recovery community can save someone’s life by no stretch of the term. Strength in numbers, right? Right, having a good support system is crucial, and very much a necessity.  

Essential or non-essential? With social distancing we saw a rise in businesses, social meeting places, sporting and music venues, restaurants, and much more completely shut down. One ingredient to COVID’s recipe of disaster was the shutting down AA/NA Meetings. These meetings keep the addict or alcoholic engaged. Ironically during this time one of the businesses classified as “essential”, were liquor stores. As stated above, recipe for disaster. 

Social distancing carries with it a reduction in resources for the addict or alcoholic as well. This reduction ranges from the inability to talk to therapists, meeting closures, and probably more overlooked- the reduction in access to one’s drug of choice. The COVID-19 pandemic has made an impact on the drug market, including the reduction in purity of street drugs, shortage of street drugs due to shipping stoppages, and price increases for drugs on the black market. While synthetic and Over the Counter drugs have been on the rise with most trafficking routes being shut down.  

Fentanyl, America has seen a sharp increase in the use of this synthetic drug. Fentanyl is highly addictive and very dangerous. Fentanyl has been used not only as a substitute for opioids, but also used to alter heroine supplies. An increase in the use of drugs like fentanyl has brought about a spike in overdoses as well. 

Many times, counselors will run across certain mental health issues accompanied with drug use. As COVID brings the economy to a lull, social settings non-existent, and resources hard to find comes depression, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  

This pandemic undoubtedly brought some problems our way. We had to make some strategic game changes on the fly. Telemedical meetings with doctors and counselors, and virtual AA/NA groups were an innovative way to combat this fight. Frontline healthcare workers like treatment facilities that kept their doors open became a Godsend. I think the most important aspect to this fight is mankind’s ability to find solutions to problematic situations.  

Humans are highly adaptive beings, there’s no doubt about that. We have seen our fair share of strife throughout our existence on this wonderful planet. And there is always hope and help there waiting. If you are struggling during this time, or have been struggling, all you must do is pick up the phone, or open the laptop and search for the help you need. Help is out there waiting and will always be waiting. People were put on this planet to make things happen. We are making things happen. Strength in numbers, and strength through love. Love for our fellow human has always been the invisible glue that keeps us going. Go find your glue. Coach, out.