At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have been severely impacted by the pandemic. We understand that millions of Americans are grieving and fearful of contracting the coronavirus. In many states, the public health crisis is worsening, so it is critical to stay safe and healthy.
Reports abound that the addiction and mental health recovery communities are exceedingly vulnerable of late. Fear, isolation, uncertainty, and financial concerns are traumatizing, and trauma can bring about or trigger symptoms of mental illness.
Data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that a third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression. Amid the pandemic, 50 percent of adults experienced a depressed mood, compared to 25 percent before COVID-19. Dr. Maurizio Fava, psychiatrist-in-chief, within the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, says:
“It’s quite understandable the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to cause significant stress and psychological distress for a large proportion of the population. And we know the rates are progressively increasing.”
Since upticks in mental illness rates and behavioral health disorders like addiction dovetail typically, it will probably not surprise you to learn that drug and alcohol use is on the rise as well. In May, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), warned that the pandemic was the impetus for more substance use and overdoses nationwide.
Nearly two months later, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shares that opioid use, relapse, and overdose deaths are spiking. Dr. Nora Volkow warns that we were still contending with an opioid epidemic before coronavirus and that it could be worse than before.
Isolation is Detrimental to People with Substance Use Disorders
As if the pandemic wasn’t hard enough for every American, with some 3.5 million infected and more than 135,000 dead, the psychological toll is proving to be enormous. Dr. Volkow shares that social distancing reduces disease transmission, but it also adversely affects people living with mental illness and addiction, WBUR reports. She reports that doctors are worried about intentional overdoses and other methods of suicide.
“We have to face the reality that … isolation is particularly hard for people suffering from substance use disorders, also depression or other psychiatric disorders,” says Dr. Volkow. “Withdrawal and isolation actually just in general exacerbates the problem.”
In the interview, the NIDA director shares that opioid overdoses may have increased 30 to 40 percent since the pandemic began. She says it’s harder to track overdoses because autopsies are not being conducted in some communities due to an overburdened healthcare system. We may never know the exact number of overdose deaths in 2020. Moreover, state lockdowns reduce the opportunities for people to administer the life-saving overdose reversal drug naloxone.
“The fact that we’re very isolated now, if someone is taking opioids and they overdose, the probability that someone sees them and can give them naloxone, which is necessary to reverse the overdoses, is much less likely,” says Dr. Volkow.
Ever-rising unemployment rates mean that countless members of the recovery community are jobless. Financial uncertainty is stressful, which can trigger a relapse or lead people down a worse path. Volkow rightly points out that, “If you’re trying to achieve recovery, one of the components is that you want to integrate yourself to everyday life, and now it’s much harder to get jobs.”
Those who’ve relapsed amid the pandemic must seek assistance immediately before matters worsen. It may feel like you are cut off from support, but help is out there, and treatment centers are still operating. Please do not let guilt stand in the way of getting back on track.
California Addiction Recovery Center
If you are struggling with addiction and require treatment for the first time or experienced a relapse in recent months, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center for assistance. Our dedicated team is here for you during these difficult times and can help you get on the path to long-term recovery.