Fears surround COVID-19 have caused thousands of individuals in the Appalachian region who were in recovery from opioid use to relapse. The region is approximately 205,000 square miles and includes the Appalachian mountains, which stretch from southern New York to northern Mississipi. This area has been a hotspot for an extraordinarily large number of opioid overdoses and fatalities.
Public health officials state that the pandemic is aggravating this already-existing problem by forcing people in recovery into social isolation, essential preventing them from making use of vital support systems and driving many to relapse.
In response to this, local officials have been developing new medical practices and guidelines to assist the already at-risk community deal with the pandemic. And opioid abusers who are unable or unwilling to seek professional help have found some solace in online communities, such as Reddit.
Many officials believe that an excess of unstructured time, being unable to attend recovery group meetings in person, and anxiety caused by COVID-19 are among the many challenges that can undermine a person’s recovery.
COVID’s Path of Economic Destruction
In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the United States economy. Kevin Hassett, White House economic adviser, announced on May 10 that he thinks the US unemployment rate will likely be close to 20 percent in the May jobs report.
The US economy lost as many as 20.5 million jobs in April, which is, without a doubt, the most sudden and most dramatic decline since the government started tracking the data in 1939. And workers with substance use disorders whose jobs are often tied to maintaining healthy habits are experiencing this economic fallout. Situations in which social isolation, limited communication, modified routines, and profound stress can trigger a relapse and those are all problems nearly everyone is encountering.
Online Resources See Dramatic Increase in Use
Some people who are struggling with substance use disorders have turned to social media platforms, including Reddit. The website is among few places online where opioid users can feel relatively comfortable discussing their lives and problems, due to the anonymity it allows those who participate.
Participants in Reddit’s opioid forum range from active users to those in recovery and everything in between.
Among the most common sentiments on this forum have been from opioid users who also suffer from health problems and fear contracting COVID-19. People with SUDs are at a higher risk for severe complications and death from the virus related to the damage done by opioid abuse, other drugs, or alcohol.
Substance abuse compromises the immune system and makes users more vulnerable to infections and other diseases, and also appears to be related to a rapid progression of the disease. Opioid use has been related to respiratory problems and pulmonary and viral infections.
And while social distancing guidelines restrict movement around the country, telemedicine has also significantly increased in popularity. Telemedicine refers to the practice of patient care using a digital platform instead of the provider and patient being in the same space physically. Most often, this is accomplished during a video visit on a device that connects to the internet such as a smartphone, computer, or tablet. For example, Teladoc, a leader in the industry, has seen its shares spike nearly 75% this year.
Kentucky is one state that is aggressively addressing the problem. Kentucky’s answer to the opioid epidemic is working to ensure that seventy syringe exchange programs stay open throughout the state. Also, the number of methadone doses an individual can take home has been increased so that people aren’t forced to stand in line in an environment where they may be exposed to COVID-19.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear also signed an executive order on April 2 to commute sentences for hundreds of non-violent offenders across the state of Kentucky out of concern over the virus. The order stated that to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and promote safety in corrections, reduction of the inmate population is necessary for “overcrowded state prison facilities.”
Getting Help for Addiction
As the COVID pandemic rages on, many people across the nation are turning to substance abuse to reduce stress or grief. Others are relapsing after months or years of sobriety. But addiction doesn’t solve problems related to this virus—in fact, it can undermine a person’s health and make them more susceptible to its potentially lethal effects.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers are open and enact strict safety measures to ensure that those we treat remain healthy and can concentrate on addiction issues rather than just the crisis in the world at large.
Our programs include detox, partial hospitalization, and residential formats, and feature a variety of therapeutic services vital for the recovery process. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Group support
- Holistic techniques
- Experiential activities
- Relapse prevention
- Aftercare planning
If you or a loved one has turned to the use of drugs or alcohol to combat negative feelings associated with COVID-19 and the destruction it has caused, we urge you to contact us today and find out how we can help!