- May 26
Making life-changing decisions during times of upheaval is always a challenge. Due to the emergence of COVID-19, many people don’t know when they will go back to work or find another job or even be able to hang out with friends without fear. For those with an active addiction, the uncertainty is even greater and can lead to worsening substance abuse. Choosing to seek addiction treatment is never a simple act, and doing so during a pandemic may feel strange. We’ll explore the reasons seeking substance abuse treatment during the coronavirus outbreak is the smart thing to do.
How COVID-19 Is Facilitating Addiction
The oddities of life under COVID-19 have a profound impact on substance abuse for those who have an active addiction and those who are at risk of developing one. Factors like social isolation, stress and boredom all contribute to an increased desire to make negative feelings go away by any means possible. Unfortunately, drinking or using drugs can provide instant relief at a huge long-term cost. Self-medicating becomes a crutch that gets harder and harder to put aside as addiction develops.
Typically, the progression of addiction is slowed by routines and structures associated with work, school or at-home responsibilities. Someone might come home and get drunk every night but hold back a bit because they still have to function at work the next day. Since 39% of adults have lost their job or had their work hours reduced due to COVID-19, Americans have a lot more free time in which they can abuse substances with no immediate repercussions. This is accelerating the rate at which someone may develop an addiction.
Another factor is the limited availability of drugs and alcohol. People who are used to having a couple of drinks at the bar at happy hour or buying one or two doses of a drug at a time are now concerned about how they will get their next high. Rather than reducing overall intake, this has the counterintuitive effect of driving people to buy in bulk. In March 2020, alcohol sales abruptly rose by 55% as stay-at-home orders went into effect, demonstrating the desire to stock up on the substance.
Unfortunately, a key element of addiction is the need to use more of a substance to achieve the desired results. This means that people are buying more drugs and alcohol and using them up faster and worsening their addiction in the process.
Health Effects of COVID-19 on Those With Addiction
One significant reason to seek substance misuse treatment during the coronavirus outbreak is that substance use has serious implications for people who contract COVID-19. Abusing any substance harms the body and weakens the immune system, increasing the chances of contracting the virus upon exposure.
Many substances also have the potential to worsen the symptoms of coronavirus infection. COVID-19 is a respiratory disorder, making it more dangerous to those who smoke or vape. Opioid use is also a compounded risk factor, as frequent or chronic use depresses the function of the respiratory system and decreases oxygenation of the blood — something the coronavirus does, too.
Attempting to stop substance misuse without medical assistance can cause two distinct problems for those struggling with addiction during the pandemic. For one, many of the withdrawal symptoms common to multiple substances, such as body aches and fever, are also key symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, if withdrawal symptoms become dangerous, it is significantly harder to get treatment at a non-specialty medical provider due to the excess burden COVID-19 is placing on the healthcare system.
To improve your immune health and defend against the coronavirus, it’s essential to stop substance abuse as soon as possible. The safest and most effective way to do this is to enroll in a program with withdrawal management services.
Why Addiction Treatment Is More Important Than Ever
There is never a perfect time to enter addiction treatment, and you shouldn’t let COVID-19 stop you from beginning your recovery. Here are the top three reasons to choose substance abuse treatment even during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Boredom: Being isolated in quarantine leaves you with a lot of free time on your hands, and drugs or alcohol will become harder and harder to resist without learning appropriate coping skills.
- Loneliness: For many people, a lack of in-person socialization leads to intense loneliness that triggers a desire to self-medicate with addictive substances.
- Feeling stuck: People who are isolating with their families may find the 24/7 contact to be stressful and anxiety-provoking, making substance abuse all the more tempting.
These factors make it more likely for an addiction to get much worse, much faster than it might under normal circumstances.
Is It Safe to Go to Substance Abuse Treatment During Coronavirus?
The American Society of Addiction Medicine has already noted the above factors as likely to worsen addiction and has worked with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on measures that allow better access to treatment during this emergency. These measures include expansions to take-home medication programs and home delivery of methadone, for example.
Rehab facilities are considered essential services, so even those who require residential treatment or partial hospitalization can get the care they need. Quality programs like those available through Gateway Foundation are taking robust precautions to keep facilities clean and safe for clients and staff alike. Examples of these measures include:
- Medically screening and monitoring clients.
- Testing clients who come down with a fever.
- Reducing the size of groups and gatherings to promote social distancing.
- Adopting more stringent cleaning and sanitization standards.
Virtual or telehealth services are becoming instrumental in addiction treatment. At Gateway, we have transitioned all outpatient services to virtual channels, allowing clients to receive crucial care without leaving their homes.
Move Forward With Gateway Foundation
Learning to live a healthy and happy life under the shadow of COVID-19 is a challenge, and even more so if you are also struggling with addiction. Gateway Foundation understands the importance of instilling positive coping skills, and we are ready to help you do so whether you need the structure and supervision of a residential program or the flexibility of outpatient services.
We are working around the clock to stay current with all recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) so you can feel confident as you pursue recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. If you’re ready to seize this moment and turn your life around, Gateway is ready to be there for you. Call 877-505-4673 for more information or contact us online.