How the Opioid Crisis Has Been Affected By Coronavirus

A number of Americans have been suffering from opioid addiction well before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many fear that the unprecedented level of stress the global outbreak has caused may lead to a new wave of opioid-related addictions and overdoses. There are many reasons why a new drug crisis may be underfoot — namely, millions of people have been forced to stay at home due to local shelter-in-place mandates. For some, being at home all day may not be the most ideal condition, especially if they are living in shelters or in a toxic or violent home environment. In addition, many people have been unable to receive the regular medical or mental health care they would normally receive due to the strain the coronavirus has placed on healthcare.

coronavirus opioid crisis

And then there’s the economic uncertainty; millions of Americans are unemployed with many others in a financially precarious position with no defined end in sight. Add the number of coronavirus myths spread online, and it’s a recipe for disaster for people who suffer from anxiety or other mental health conditions. Recovering opioid and heroin addicts are in danger during this challenging time, but there are things they can do to prevent a relapse or worse.

Alternatives to Rehab

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings and rehab centers may be shut down at this time or considerably scaled back to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. This leaves many who rely on meetings or rehab without the lifeline they need during this time of crisis. What does a recovering addict do if their access to rehab centers or their regular program meetings is disrupted? 

Fortunately, many organizations understand the repercussions of a disruption to an addict’s support system. Many are providing alternatives to physical meetings and programs in the form of video chats. There are free, live, video meetings available so members can continue with their program and get the support they need. 

The video alternative is convenient; people can tune in from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection and a device to stream the video chat on. Most of the organizations providing the NA video meetings have several scheduled throughout the day. Besides the regularly scheduled virtual meetings, many also host group chats or private social media groups where members can meet and talk with others whenever they need extra support.

Depending on the severity of the addiction, some people who suffer from opioid addiction may be able to become sober without rehab. One of the biggest challenges an addict faces is the external influence from others who may negatively influence the person and convince them to use. With social distancing in place, a person may be far removed from the negative influences that led to their dependency, which gives them an opportunity to clean up once and for all.

Taking advantage of this time for completing online support meetings, reading self-help literature on recovery, and following a healthier health and wellness routine at home can help milder cases wean off opioids and other addictive substances. If they live with supportive family members, their chances of managing and overcoming their addictions may be higher.

Coping With Anxiety

Anxiety caused by the loneliness and uncertainty of what’s going on with the coronavirus outbreak can cause many negative side effects. It’s crucial that someone who struggles with an addiction to focus on improving their mental health and well-being during the pandemic.

A healthy diet and plenty of physical exercise are good steps to take when managing their moods and well-being. They serve as healthy outlets to replace self-limiting beliefs or to turn the nervous and negative mind off for a while. There are a variety of free, online workout videos and podcasts available. Those struggling with addiction who are stuck at home can take up yoga or do regular home cardio or strength-training exercises to detox the body and mind. The home health routine they create now could serve them well on their road to recovery long after the pandemic is over.

Finding Safe Drug Alternatives

Addicts may suffer from one or several mental health conditions that further complicate their issues. Anxiety may be common at this time as people try to cope with the COVID-19 crisis from home. Taking care of their mental health is essential, but with the troubling times we’re in and the constant news about the pandemic, someone recovering from drug addiction may feel overwhelmed and incapable of managing their addiction. 

If natural remedies to improve mental health and overall well-being are failing, an addict should seek medical assistance. One way to get immediate assistance is by turning to telehealth for a medical visit. Online doctors using telemedicine technology provide a virtual consultation by video chat. The patient can have a confidential doctor’s visit from the comfort of their own home.

Much like a regular visit to a medical clinic, a doctor or medical professional takes the time during the consultation to understand the patient’s problems and concerns. They may refer them to a specialist, or they can also prescribe medications such as Suboxone that helps a recovering opioid addict manage withdrawals and the heightened anxiety of sheltering at home. The patient can receive the prescription through email, or the doctor could send it directly to the patient’s pharmacy of choice so it can be picked up when ready.

Finding Help During the COVID-19 Pandemic

If you notice a loved one is struggling with addiction at this time such as heroin use or addiction to prescription medication, seek help. Although the regular care your loved one is accustomed to may be limited at this time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are programs in place to help addicts and recovering addicts get through the coronavirus crisis. 

Each state has its own list of organizations and programs. The best way to find help is by dialing 311 for free. The hotline will put you in touch with a representative who can refer you to an appropriate program or center in your area for further help.

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Article Author Details

Charlie Fletcher

Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer living in the pacific northwest who has a variety of interests including sociology, politics, business, education, health, and more.