COVID-19 and Recovery from Drugs & Alcohol
The COVID-19 pandemic has marked a difficult time for nearly everyone on the planet. People struggling with drugs and alcohol are also known to have a difficult time in life – pandemic or otherwise. Naturally, those who are struggling with their addiction during the global pandemic are facing a number of challenges that have never been dealt with in the history of humanity.
Basic Changes Caused by COVID
If you’re not already aware of the measures in your local area, it is worth your time to check in with a local health authority, hospital, or medical professional. Guidelines for managing COVID-19 tend to vary from region to region and, certainly, from country to country.
However, general changes include various degrees of the following safety measures:
- Physical distancing. Most countries are asking that their population participate in physically distancing from each other. A distance of 2 meters is usually recommended.
- Wearing masks. People are asked to wear masks to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19. These masks may or may not be mandatory but, in almost all countries, they are highly encouraged.
- Avoiding unnecessary travel and outdoor activity. Some countries are entirely locked down and forbid outdoor activity, except in the most necessary of cases, whereas others simply discourage people from going out unless they absolutely have to.
These changes have had a profound impact on the social, business, and private lives of nearly everybody on the planet. They have also had a significant impact on those who are in recovery from drugs or alcohol.
COVID-19 May Make People More Likely to Use Drugs or Alcohol
One of the realities that we must face as a result of COVID-19 is the increased rate of substance abuse. This is true for people who are not regular substance users as well as those who are already struggling with addiction or who are on the path to recovery.
There are a lot of reasons that COVID-19 could contribute to relapse rates. These factors relate to the many social, financial, emotional and physical changes that have taken place as a result of the pandemic.
It’s a good idea to take a look at the different issues caused by COVID-19. Understanding how these seemingly different factors relate to one another is important for anyone who wants to recognize the impact that COVID-19 is having on people in addiction recovery.
The Social Impact of COVID-19
Above all else, COVID-19 is impacting the social lives of everyday people. The impact of wearing masks, physically distancing and socially isolating oneself is quite serious and, in almost all cases, not a positive change.
These are some of the most common social changes caused by COVID-19.
- Social isolation. The rules and protocol vary from place to place, but pretty much everywhere in the world people are subject to an increased level of social isolation. This could be relatively mild in some places where the social distancing requires only that people remain a few feet away from each other in public spaces. Or, in more serious cases, social isolation can extend to mean that people are expressly forbidden from engaging with anyone outside of their immediate family.
- Boredom. Because of COVID-19, a lot of recreational facilities are closed. People may find themselves bored because they don’t have access to social entertainment anymore. Public venues like swimming pools and skating rinks are closed. Arcades and movie theaters won’t be accepting customers for some time.
All of these public outlets closing means that people don’t have the same opportunity to relax and unwind as they would otherwise. Lacking the opportunity to socialize in more wholesome venues people may be more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol as an opportunity.
- Relationship / sexual problems. Many people are also going to experience relationship or sexual difficulties because of COVID-19. This is especially true for people who don’t have any long-term love interests but who are regularly invested in the dating or hookup scene.
Since COVID-19 and social distancing protocol is making it more difficult for people to meet for dates or casual sex, many people are having a hard time getting their sexual needs met. For people who use sex and intimacy as a method of contrlling their emotions (sex and love addiction), this can lead to serious issues like remission of trauma.
People may also turn to drugs or alcohol when they are deprived of sex, love, or physical intimacy.
All of these social difficulties may lead someone to turn towards drugs or alcohol. We are social creatures, whether or not we accept this, and many of us begin to experience undesirable emotions when we are deprived of human connection.
The COVID-19 crisis is depriving us of one of our most basic human needs: human connection. This means that we have millions of people who are struggling to get by without their basic need for intimacy and connection being met. This alone can greatly aggravate the use of substances.
The Financial Impact of COVID-19
COVID-19 is also having a profound impact on the financial lives of millions across the world. Unfortunately, this crisis has also highlighted the severity of the wage gap in modern society. While the working class struggles with business closures, reduced working hours and rampant layoffs, the wealthy class that includes multinational CEOs continues to grow richer.
Many find that the growing disparity between the rich and the poor is enough reason to fall back on substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can cover up the existential challenge of living in a society that is fundamentally structured to support the wealthy, even at the expense of the working class.
However it’s not just the fundamental inequality that creates stress among members of the working class. There are a number of more specific financial problems that have emerged alongside COVID-19.
- Closure of small businesses. Many small business owners are finding that their businesses are simply running out of customers. At the mercy of large multinational corporations, local mom & pop shops are being run out of business. Unable to compete with the prices of multi-billion dollar corporations, such local businesses are having to shut their doors.
- Reduced working hours & layoffs. Many people are finding that their working hours have been greatly reduced or that they’re getting laid off. Business owners are having to reduce the number of employees for many reasons including a decreased workload, physical distance measures, and other factors.
Financial uncertainty and difficulty can create stress. And, as you’re likely aware, times of high stress are an easy catalyst for relapse.
The Emotional Impact of COVID-19
One of the other significant tolls that COVID-19 is taking rests on our emotional health. Everyone, everywhere, is feeling some sort of emotional impact from the COVID-19 situation. Unfortunately, many of these emotions are undesirable and difficult to manage.
Some of these emotions, like stress, emerge from any number of different financial, social or physical stressors associated with COVID-19. Others may be caused by other pressing concerns. Some of the most common causes of emotional disturbances caused by COVID include:
- The death of family members or friends. The death of a family member or friend is always a traumatic experience. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is causing a large number of untimely deaths in people of all ages. The unexpected death of loved ones can lead to a number of emotional problems, all of which are likely to increase the risk of someone relapsing.
- Uncertainty regarding the future. The COVID-19 crisis has left a number of people entirely uncertain about the future. Businesses may be closing, plans may be unraveling, relationships may be falling apart. Many people are even uncertain about the future state of their country. These uncertainties can create a lot of fear or stress which can aggravate someone’s changes of relapsing.
- Distrust and confusion. The COVID-19 crisis has also led to a lot of distrust and confusion among the population. A growing sense of unease has led to the population becoming increasingly mistrustful of their government. Frequent disinformation campaigns, spread both by official organizations and everyday individuals, have made it impossible to truly validate information. This has created a sense of distrust and confusion among people which may make people feel alienated, uneasy, and more likely to use drugs or alcohol.
How Is COVID-19 Affecting Drug & Alcohol Recovery and Rehab
The COVID-19 crisis has also had a powerful impact on rehab facilities and treatment programs. These changes can be evidenced from the very beginning of treatment up until the end. This section will discuss how COVID-19 is changing rehab and recovery programs across the globe.
COVID-19 Protocol & Rehab
The first thing that many rehab companies moved to change was their safety protocol. In order to remain open, rehab facilities had to adopt a number of rules and safety measures to help ensure that they were compliant with government mandates.
This means that measures like physical distancing, mask wearing, and frequent handwashing are now mandatory at many rehab facilities across the planet. These have also led to a number of specific changes during different parts of rehab.
Intake & Assessment
While many rehab facilities already offer their intake sessions over the phone or in person, nowadays facilities are more likely to offer these intake sessions exclusively over the phone. This helps to promote physical distancing.
On top of that, intake and assessment questions may be updated to include inquiries about recent travel plans, flus, or symptoms of sickness. If you have been traveling at any time during the last months you’ll be asked whether or not you completed a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
These questions may create some confusion as a number of withdrawal symptoms can actually mimic some of the symptoms displayed by COVID-19. Symptoms like high body temperature, fever, sweating, coughing and other respiratory problems may confuse people into thinking that they have contracted COVID. Or, on the other hand, people who think that they are just dealing with withdrawal may actually have COVID and need to self-isolate.
Therapy & Group Sessions
If you’re attending outpatient rehab then you may be given the opportunity to connect with your therapist online. Using apps like Skype or Zoom, therapists can now participate in therapy with their clients over their smartphones or computers. This allows them to adhere to physical distance guidelines.
Group meetings may still be held, however, members will likely be seated several meters away from each other and asked to follow distancing procedures when entering or leaving the room.
Changes in Medication
Another one of the biggest changes that COVID-19 has created for those in recovery is a change in the frequency of medication dispensing. In an effort to maximize physical distancing, many medical companies have revised their protocol regarding their ability to dispense certain medication.
For example, methadone is a drug that was typically dispensed to recovering opioid users on a daily basis. This prevents users from stockpiling doses so that they can use them at a later date to get high. Now, to prevent possible transmission of COVID-19, pharmacists are permitted to dispense several doses worth of methadone to their patients.
COVID-19 has taken the world by storm and affected nearly every part of our daily lives. Whether it is affecting the small business owner whose family-run store just got shut down, the aspiring student who had finally decided what they’re going to get their degree in, or the wandering vagabond who now faces closed borders COVID-19 has impacted everyone in some way.
The unprecedented reality here means that we are all being faced with a situation that we could not possibly have prepared for. The elevated levels of stress, confusion, and discord may make it more likely for people to turn towards drugs or alcohol to find comfort in this unpredictable situation.
Fortunately, rehab companies are doing their best to accommodate recovering drug users during these difficult times. By offering online support and following protocol to ensure a safe, COVID-free atmosphere, these recovery facilities are helping to make sure that people can find their way to sobriety even amidst the pandemic.