Almost 2 million cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in the US since the virus was first detected in this country at the start of 2020. At the same time, the opioid crisis continues to affect those addicted to the drug. Addiction to opioids and to other drugs, including prescription medications and alcohol, is a major health issue. During these challenging times, healthcare officials are now treating two epidemics at once: COVID-19 and addiction.
Over 102,000 patients have died from the coronavirus infection in the US alone. COVID-19 has affected people in every state in the country in some form. The virus is particularly dangerous for those who are more vulnerable, including people who have compromised physical health as a result of their addiction to drugs or alcohol.
The numbers for those addicted to opioids are just as devastating. According to the CDC, 128 people die everyday from an opiate overdose. While the percentage of people dying from opioid and heroin overdoses is decreasing slightly, the number of people dying from an overdose of synthetic opioids is increasing.
In 2018, 46,802 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. That same year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and 526,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is being advised to stay home and keep their distance from other people. While this guideline was designed to protect everyone physically, the separation has caused other issues with isolation that can make the situation worse for those dealing with addiction.
The measures put forth to keep everyone safe and healthy are inconvenient to most, but for addicts who depend on their treatment, including medication assisted therapy, they have become risk factors for relapse. The isolation, along with the fear and uncertainty caused by social and economic distress, can make anxiety and depression much worse. In addition, the restrictions can impede access to highly regulated, critical medications for addiction treatment such as methadone and buprenorphine.
The term used to keep people separated in public is “social distancing.” However, social connections are vital to treating two epidemics at once. The ability to connect with friends and loved ones, even if only virtually, can mean the difference in an addict’s successful recovery. Social support is crucial for addicts who are trying to recover from their substance use disorder. In fact, the experts distinguish between physical distancing and social distancing, emphasizing that we should make extra efforts to maintain social bonds during this time of overwhelming stress and dislocation.
When treating two epidemics at once, adjusting to the COVID-19 restrictions while still attending to the pressing need for addiction treatment and recovery, it is critically important to offer virtual support even when physical distances must be maintained. Online support meetings can help addicts feel that they are not alone or forgotten during the virus crisis. Telehealth has also become a popular option for therapy sessions, enabling the addict to remain safe at home while continuing to receive the much-needed “face to face” interaction. Group therapy has also become a virtual option for continued support for the addict throughout the pandemic.
Access to Medications
Although many treatment options for people recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol have been disrupted by COVID-19, there are accommodations being made to ensure they can continue with their treatment plan. Regulations are being adjusted and, in some cases, relaxed for addicts to be able to access medications they need for their recovery. For example, many clinics can give 14-day or even 28-day supplies to “stable” patients, so that they don’t have to wait in line and can adhere to social distancing for safety. The federal government has also relaxed some restrictions on buprenorphine prescribing, even allowing some telephone prescribing.
Calming Goat Can Help You with Medication Assisted Therapy During COVID-19
At Calming Goat, our approach is to heal you as a whole person, focusing on your mind, body, and spirit. We encourage you to experience the difference that medication-assisted treatment can make in your recovery. We want you to stay safe and healthy during COVID-19 and to continue your addiction treatment. We are an essential healthcare business and will remain open, following CDC guidelines for COVID-19, to continue helping you find true recovery from your addiction. Call (424) 376-3444 or contact us online to schedule your appointment today.