The Rise of Addiction and Teletherapy in the COVID-19 Crisis
The COVID-19 crisis has created a time of uncertainty and anxiousness for millions world-wide. As health professionals and hospital staff work tirelessly to reduce and prevent the harmful consequences of the virus, the preventative measures being set in place can have seriously negative impact on individuals susceptible to addiction. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 19.7 million American adults (12 years and older) battled a substance use disorder within the past few years. While that number may already seem staggeringly high, it only continues to worsen as the crisis restrictions tighten. Those facing addiction already fight their own battles every day, so when these two epidemics collide, they can worsen each other in an additively deadly way. Whether it’s physical isolation or disrupted treatment plans, it’s important to consider all of the various contributing factors that may lead us to see an abnormally high spike in addiction during this time. Read more about the rise of addiction and teletherapy in the COVID-19 crisis..
- Isolation from Family & Friends.
Support from family and friends can be crucial to someone who is battling addiction. It’s been said that “addiction is a disease of isolation,” so it stands to reason that social distancing is counterintuitive to most all recovery plans. The social isolation that is so critical to preventing the spread of coronavirus is also preventing people from seeing their friends and family, or attending peer-support groups that may serve as a vital source of emotional and spiritual support to them.
- Out of A Job.
Job stability offers a sense of security that is absolutely critical to maintaining good mental health. That explains why, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 1 in 6 unemployed workers are addicted to alcohol or drugs – almost twice the rate for full-time workers. When you don’t how you will pay rent or afford to feed your family, the resulting stress plays a major role in starting and continuing drug use as well as relapse (return to drug use) in patients recovering from addiction.
- Stuck in an Unhealthy Home Environment.
To some it may seem like a blessing to be stuck in isolation with family, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have such a loving home environment. The home environment, especially during formative years, is a very important factor in addiction. If you are living with someone who puts a lot of pressure on you to “do better” in school, at work or in life in general, this can play a role in trying or continuing to use drugs to improve performance or to make you feel better about yourself. Moreover, being stuck in isolation and subjected to parents or family members who use drugs or misuse alcohol, or who break the law, can increase a person’s risk of falling into similar patterns.
- Fear of the Unknown.
Heightened anxiety is already considered a near-universal trigger for drug use, so in an unprecedented global pandemic like this, the stress and anxiousness tends to skyrocket. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that it’s typical for people in high-stress situations that cause unusually high amounts of anxiety or depression, to start using drugs to try to boost serotonin levels and feel less anxious.
- Normal Treatment/Support Systems Disrupted.
For someone who is struggling or has struggled in the past with addiction, so many of the typical services and treatments that they are used to have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. People are told to stay home, directly contradicting the need to go to clinics to obtain medications for treating addiction. Additionally, may rehab facilities have limited new admissions, cancelled programs, or even shuttered their doors for fear of spreading coronavirus in a communal living setting.
So how do you know if you, or someone you know is being negatively impacted by any of the social or environmental consequences of COVID-19? The Center on Addiction provides this Addiction Symptoms Checklist to diagnose addiction via behavioral symptoms:
- Often taking more of the substance for a longer period than intended
- Ongoing desire or unsuccessful efforts to reduce use
- Great deal of time spent to obtain, use or recover from substance
- Craving the substance
- Failing to fulfill obligations at work, home or school as a result of continued use
- Continued use despite ongoing social or relationship problems caused or worsened by use
- Giving up or reducing social, occupational or recreational activities because of use
- Repeated use in physically dangerous situations
- Continued use despite ongoing physical or mental health problems caused or worsened by use
- Developing tolerance (feeling less effect from the substance with continued use)
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after reducing use
If you have experienced two or more of these symptoms in the last year, you may be suffering from addiction and should seek help. Luckily, even in the midst of a global pandemic, there are safe and effective options available! With more and more individuals telecommuting, busier schedules, and the need for greater flexibility in our ever-changing world, teletherapy opens up a whole new frontier with so many added benefits for those struggling with addiction. Meredith O’Brien and her counseling team provide individual therapy sessions in a nurturing environment to help clients to achieve treatment goals, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, will be offering 100% virtual sessions by phone and/or HIPPA compliant ZOOM. To schedule an appointment or to read more on how Meredith can provide help to those with substance abuse and addiction issues, click here!