Coping with Addiction in the Post-Pandemic World
On Monday, May 16th, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, made a surprise announcement and proclaimed that virtually all of the Commonwealth would be ‘reopened’ starting on May 29th. This announcement followed the CDC guidelines from the previous week that allowed vaccinated people to go without masks. This change of direction came as a shock to many people. Previous plans had called for a staggered reopening that culminated in July (and even later in some cities like Boston.)
For those who have substance abuse issues, this can create a perfect storm of opportunity to increase their substance abuse problems and triggers for relapse for those in recovery.
“The reopening of the state is by-in-large great news for the people of MA, but it also creates a dangerous scenario for people with substance abuse issues,” said David Ray, Executive Director of Topsail Addiction Treatment in Andover, MA. “The CDC estimates 13% of the population have begun or increased their substance use during the Pandemic. This means that as many as 890,000 people here in MA are being thrust into a “new normal” that many of them are not ready to handle … And for those who have been coping with existing issues or who are in recovery, the potential for relapse is even more significant.”
The Dangers of The New Normal for People with Substance Abuse Issues
An article in the popular local website Mass Live featured the following line: “Raise a glass. Massachusetts announced Tuesday the latest timeline for bars, dance clubs, and nightclubs to reopen.”
While everyone knew that the reopening would happen at some point, it all comes rather suddenly considering the ‘baby-steps approach” that Massachusetts has taken throughout the Pandemic. This sudden change has caught people with substance abuse issues off guard and given them little time to develop the necessary coping strategies required to face the challenges and triggers that will come along with it.
For many, this will feel like a time to let loose. Coming out of ‘lockdown,’ paired with the nice spring and summer weather, is likely to lead to a raucous first few weeks for those who enjoy going out. If the response to reopening in Nashville is any indication, this may be a wild summer.
For others, the reopening and reduced social restrictions can cause anxiety and stress. In a recent survey conducted by the Harris Poll, 49% of people said they feel “uneasy about adjusting to in-person interactions post-pandemic.”
They may feel pressure to participate in reopening celebrations or feel forced to attend family and work get-togethers that they have been able to avoid the past year and a half.
The very transitional nature of reopening also brings with it many challenges that can put addicts under stress. Some very real issues that could impact addicts as the new normal approaches include:
- Returning to a regular work schedule
- Going back to work in an office, retail or other indoor setting
- Coping with crowds at stores and in public places
- Managing busier public transportation
- Increased traffic on roads and longer commuting and travel times
- Dealing with body issues that have developed from bad habits during the Pandemic
Substance Abuse Issues Developed During the Pandemic
By any measurement, the Pandemic has had a significant negative impact on substance abuse.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported as early as June of 2020 that 13%
of Americans admitted to “starting or increasing substance use as a way of
coping with stress or emotions related to COVID-19.”
Overdoses have also spiked during the Pandemic. The Overdose reporting system ODMAP showed an 18% increase in overdoses in the U.S. over the same period in 2019. Many experts suggest that the disruption that the Pandemic has caused in the regular drug supply lines has led to the increase in overdoses because many addicts will binge when they get their drug of choice or try new substances (like Fentanyl) with which they are unfamiliar.
The American Medical Association echoed the danger when it reported in December 2020 that more than 40 U.S. states have seen increases in opioid-related mortality. One practical reason for the spike in overdose deaths is that quarantines have led many people to begin using alone. Narcan has become more commonplace for first responders, and deaths from overdosing have been on a downward trend. But when users are alone, there is no one to call for emergency services, and the results are more often fatal.
Reopening into Relapse
As Massachusetts reopens, we will continue to see new cases of addiction, but the chances of relapse in the “new normal” are even scarier. Perhaps the greatest danger of the Pandemic for the substance abuse community has been the lack of adequate treatment during the COVID-19 shutdown. A recent study by the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers found that nearly half (43%) had to reduce patient capacity during the Pandemic.
In June 2020 the Addiction Policy Forum reported that 34% of people in treatment for substance abuse reported changes or disruptions in accessing treatment or receiving recovery support services. Another 14% said they were unable to receive their treatment and services at all.
People in recovery need ongoing support and treatment to help them stay sober and avoid relapse. The reduction in these services caused by the Pandemic is leaving them unprepared to face the coming challenges and vulnerable to temptations and triggers they have been able to avoid because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Substance Abuse Treatment in MA
Topsail Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts is a substance abuse treatment facility in Andover designed specifically to help people overcome today’s substance abuse challenges. Topsail Addiction Treatment in Andover was designed specifically to help treat substance abuse and offers a serene and discrete environment for men and women to work through their substance abuse challenges.
The caring, compassionate and professional staff offer a variety of substance abuse treatment programs, including Full Day (PHP), Half-day (POP), and weekly (OP) treatments. There is also a Night-Time IOP treatment program that is ideal for working professionals.
If you’re struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, we’re here to help you regain control of your life. Our professional addiction treatment program is catered to the individual needs of our patients. With specialized care and attention from our dedicated staff of licensed professionals, you can receive the support you need to overcome your addiction in a safe and comfortable environment.
Call (978) 475-0002 today and get started on the road to recovery and get back to your own personal “new normal.”
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