Many people struggling with addiction already feel very isolated and alone. When COVID-19 essentially shut down the country, the isolation only compounded. Whether people were laid off, converted to remote work, or just haven’t been able to find work since the outbreak began, the sudden change and uncertainty added to the stress of daily life for everyone. Like anything, when someone is struggling with opioid addiction (or any addiction), the effects are that much more amplified.
Since loneliness and isolation are contributing factors to relapse or the development of a substance use disorder, it’s no wonder we see numbers rising. With 20 million+ people in the nation affected by some kind of substance abuse disorder, everyone is scrambling to get people the help that they need in the new world in which we live. The first thing to do is to help individuals figure out how to cope with the changing world and increased isolation from others.
Some patients aren’t eager to seek help for fear of contracting the virus. Others have tried to find support and assistance, only to be thwarted by services that are unavailable and facilities that have closed their doors. Some people fared better initially because the isolation kept them away from drugs and the peers that use them. However, the isolation gets more difficult as time goes on and now millions are struggling just to stay clean, and unsure of where to turn for help.
Online support groups and forums are plentiful these days. For those who want to connect with others in recovery, or even find some kind of professional assistance, this is a great place to turn. Even just connecting with friends and family regularly through social media, video calls, or other socially-distant avenues can be helpful. Anyone who is struggling with isolation should make it a point to talk to at least five people each day. This list should include anyone with a positive impact, such as friends or family, or peers in recovery who can offer more support and guidance than outsiders.
Those who prefer in-person contact can now start seeking out help from local treatment centers and other services that are designed to assist those in recovery or who are battling a substance abuse disorder. These services are available and have implemented new protocols to protect everyone from the risk of COVID-19, as they understand the growing effect of isolation on those who have substance use disorders and that their services are needed to help.