Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a rapidly spread respiratory disease that has changed the planet in a matter of months. Businesses, churches, schools, & the daily life of individuals have now been disrupted financially & socially. Just as the disease has impacted almost everything in life, it has affected the area of addiction & healing. Physical & mental health is a significant concern for individuals now battling a substance use disorder, as well as people in recovery who are being separated from their social circles. Feelings of fear & anxiety may hold people back from seeking or continuing addiction treatment, which may be the secret to saving their life. The connection with addiction & COVID-19 is being confronted with individuals in the community, so people in need can be provided with the safest options.
How COVID-19 Impacts an Addict’s Body
Addiction attacks the body in dozens of ways, destroying internal organs & weakening the immune systems. Repeated & long-term liquor use damages the heart, causing irregular heartbeat, stretching & drooping of the heart, high blood pressure, & stroke. The toxic substances that liquor creates in the pancreas can cause pancreatitis, swelling & inflammation of the arteries in the pancreas. Many people are aware of liquor’s effect on the liver, causing cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, & fatty liver disease. Alcohol use is linked to several different kinds of cancer, as well as brain damage. These severe health conditions can make you more vulnerable to the symptoms of COVID-19.
Illicit drug use can quickly deteriorate the body. Long haul methamphetamine use causes lung disease, liver, & kidney damage, damage to arteries in the heart & brain, malnutrition, tooth decay, and respiratory issues if stained, & infectious diseases & abscesses if injected. You are abusing opioids like hydrocodone, codeine, oxycodone, fentanyl, & heroin impact respiratory & pulmonary health. Smoking any drug, tobacco, or marijuana weakens the lungs, even putting smokers at risk for being hit hard by COVID-19. The National Institute on Drug Abuse stated that COVID-19 introduces a severe threat to physicians & people with a substance use disorder.
Once someone catches COVID-19, it starts with infecting cells in the lining of the lungs. The first symptoms are a cough, shortness of breath, fever, headache, muscular pain, & fatigue. Symptoms worsen as the infection moves from the upper respiratory tract to the reduced respiratory tract. A healthy patient’s immune systems may be able to contain the disease in the upper respiratory tract, allowing them to regain. In acute cases, COVID-19 can cause bronchitis & pneumonia. In a small number of severe cases, it produces acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). While a healthy person should be able to recover from COVID-19 fully, someone with pulmonary abnormalities, chronic disease, or compromised immune systems is at risk for serious illness & death.
Mental Health & COVID-19
The impact of COVID-19 has made many people feel anxiety, depression, anxiety, & depression. Individuals with preexisting mental health issues may find that their symptoms are worsening in this time of uncertainty. Substance abuse & mental health have long been linked, with 50 percent of people with acute psychiatric disorders being affected by substance abuse. It is called a co-occurring disease or dual diagnosis when someone has mental health issues and a substance abuse disorder. When mental health goes untreated, substance abuse typically worsens, & when someone starts abusing more drugs or liquor, their mental health consequences. Many people use alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism for their mental health.
While someone might feel temporary relief from their strain & anxiety after using drugs or liquor, it will worsen their symptoms & increase negative side effects in the long run. Undiagnosed, it is very tough to deal with a co-occurring disorder. Of all people who have received a diagnosis as mentally ill, 29 percent of them are admitted to abusing drugs or liquor. A reported 53 percent of drug abusers & 37 percent of liquor abusers have a severe mental illness. Thankfully there are rehabilitation centers available that treat co-occurring disorders. This is an important time to seek treatment, with the strain of COVID-19 increasing substance abuse in many individuals.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) stated that some people react more strongly to the crisis’s worries. This includes people who are at a higher risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, individuals who are helping in the response, such as health care workers, & the ones with mental health conditions, including difficulties with substance use. The pressure from an infectious disease outbreak can create these symptoms:
- Increased use of liquor, tobacco, or other drugs
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
- Deterioration of chronic health Issues
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Fear & stress about personal health & the health of loved ones
People with mental health conditions should continue treatment during COVID-19 & pay attention to brand new or worsening symptoms. The World Health Organization (WHO) released a message on mental health & psychosocial considerations during COVID-19. They advise people to limit their consumption of news on COVID-19 that triggers feelings of anxiety & seek information from reputable sources. It is essential to take care of physical health by eating healthy food, exercising, and rest.
Avoid using unhelpful coping strategies such as the use of tobacco, liquor, or other drugs. In the long run, these can worsen your mental & physical well-being.
– World Health Organization
Responders to COVID-19, like doctors, health care providers, & first responders, may uncomparable experience an emotional toll & develop secondary traumatizing stress (STS). It is essential to recognize the symptoms, such as guilt, fear, social withdrawal, illness, & fatigue. Allowing time for self-care & taking a break from media coverage are ways to unwind. Understand that anyone can form STS in a crisis, & it is okay to question for help. Developing a friend system with one more responder to monitor stress, safety, & workload can create a partnership that allows one to maintain support.
Getting Substance Abuse Treatment During COVID-19
The American Society of Addiction Medicine stated that because of social isolation, anxiety, & stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic response, the risks associated with substance use would likely increase. Addiction treatment must remain accessible while providing a protected & therapeutic environment for patients & staff.
Inpatient rehabilitation facilities, also called residential treatment programs, are centers where patients reside for an elongated period. The typical length of stay is 30 days. However, depending on the severity of their addiction, some patients stay 60 to 90 days or longer. These programs offer an opportunity for the addict to become taken from their daily life by having access to substances & attention entirely on their recovery. A benefit of these programs is that patients have complete-time care & a community of retrieval around them, however during COVID-19, some people may be afraid of transmitting or becoming infected with the disease.
Residential treatment programs are taking precautions to guard the health & safety of everybody in their facilities. Anyone entering treatment who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has been in close contact with someone who may have the disease should be analyzed before entrance into the program. An isolation period of 24hrs may be deemed appropriate for patients while their health is evaluated. Present-day patients should be screened for symptoms & also be done aware of signs to appearance out for. If any symptoms occur, they should be quarantined & given a face mask & hand sanitizer while waiting for evaluation outcomes of COVID-19. The local health dept. Should also be contacted. If they test positive, a plan to begin temporary virtual treatment should be combined with guidance from their primary care doctor if possible.
All staff & visitors should be screened for cough, fever, sore throat and shortness of breath, & muscular aches upon entering the facility every time. Discontinuing the entrance of visitors or limiting the range of visitors to one visitor each patient a day may be necessary. Enhanced facility cleaning should be implemented. Surfaces that are touched a whole lot, like doorknobs, light switches, desks, countertops, telephones, keys, & faucets should be disinfected multiple times every day. Any resident-care equipment should be cleaned after all use. Soap, water, or hand sanitizer should be done available in every space, & gloves should be worn when handling deliveries.
Physical distancing in inpatient rehabs should be implemented, with unnecessary physical contact eliminated & maintaining a distance of 6 feet between individuals. Common areas may want to be rearranged, & some classes may have to be altered to help keep the amount of people below 10. All these measures are indicated by The American Society of Addiction Medicine to ensure that safe & sanitary treatment can continue to help individuals with substance use disorders.
Outpatient rehab is a program at which people seeking treatment remain living at residence; however, travel to a facility during the day to receive treatment. These programs are frequently appropriate for someone who has a mild addiction or has professional or personal responsibilities that they cannot set aside. Before a fresh patient begins outpatient treatment, they should be screened via phone for symptoms & once more upon arrival. If they have symptoms, they should be analyzed for COVID-19. If they test positive, they should be isolated from other patients & staff & consider creating a telehealth treatment plan. Substance use disorders take thousands of lives every year, & the risks for all patients should be evaluated on an individual basis.
Patients who show no symptoms of COVID-19 can begin or continue treatment while following the sanitary & physical distancing standards. Outpatient treatment offers the opportunity to participate in telehealth services, where patients can communicate with advisers via phone or video call. On March 6, 2020, Medicare coverage was expanded to encompass telehealth services furnished to patients in broader circumstances in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This allows a wider range of services to be offered virtually instead of traveling to a treatment facility. Telehealth has also been implemented for service classes & addiction treatment medication access.
Virtual 12-step Meetings
For people who are in recovery from a substance use disorder, 12step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous are an essential part of their process. However, many of these meetings across the country have already been put on hold because of social distancing measures. Groups that are still meeting are taking sanitary precautions & practicing physical distancing with no longer hugging & shaking or holding hands. Many may be afraid to attend in-person meetings. However, there are a plethora of virtual 12step meetings available. The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) compiled a list of virtual retrieval resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. They include:
- Alcoholics Anonymous http://aa-intergroup.org/
- Narcotics Anonymous https://www.na.org/meetingsearch/
- Cocaine Anonymous https://www.ca-online.org/
- Marijuana Anonymous https://ma-online.org/
- In The Falls https://www.intherooms.com/home/
- LifeRing https://www.lifering.org/online-meetings
These meetings permit for the continuation of service that people in recovery desire. There are retrieval service apps & podcasts that can be useful at this time. Webinar tools like Zoom make it simple to set up a virtual meeting for free, & many advisers offer sessions via phone or webcam. If you are struggling with a drug or liquor problem, it is important to not cut off from supportive friends & family at this time. Reach out through texts & phone calls & set time aside to concentrate on talking to the positive people in your life.
Addiction Treatment Medications
Opioid treatment programs (OTPs) provide counseling & medication-assisted treatment for people with opioid addiction. People usually travel to these facilities daily to receive a dose of methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone. These medications help keep people from experiencing unpleasant & painful withdrawal symptoms that come with opioid abuse. These programs offer people a high quality of life, a reduction in criminal activity, & a way to stop using opioids. Because OTPs provide essential medications, they have remained operational during COVID-19.
However, some at-risk people are concerned about traveling to these facilities each day.
Stable patients have already been allowed a take-home dose of their medication for 28 days, with less stable patients being able to receive a take-home dose for fourteen days. Unstable patients, such as people who are still abusing opioids, will have to continue coming to a facility all day for their safety. However, OTPs have implemented cleaning standards and isolating patients who may be infected to receive their dose in a separate space. Practitioners can treat existing patients through telehealth. However, fresh patients will want to undergo an in-person physical examination. The risk of overdose in people who abuse opioids is high, so receiving these treatment medications is essential at this time.
Seeking Treatment During COVID-19
Although much of the world has stopped, addictions continue, with many being amplified with the isolation, stress, & anxiety during this crisis. A caring treatment provider can help you find the right center for the demands if you or your loved one is suffering from an addiction.