Substance Abuse Rises During COVID-19

by Jan 19, 2021Blog0 comments

Substance Abuse Rises During COVID-19


In what is clearly  a crisis within a crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a concurrent  rise in alcohol- related -related incidents, overdoses, and the crimes that accompany heavy substance. Herein we consider the apparent reasons for this twin pandemic and the solutions for mitigating its devastating impacts.

Why the Rise  

Mass shutdowns and social isolation are likely the most significant factors driving the parallel pandemic. As every twelve-step program emphasizes, the essence of recovery  is the “we” factor of one person helping another, and persons with substance use disorder are in dire need of contact with their fellow addicts and alcoholics in order to achieve and maintain sobriety.

 The COVID-19 pandemic is a particularly grave risk to the millions of Americans with opioid use disorder, who are already vulnerable and marginalized. Additionally, opioid addicts  are heavily dependent on face-to-face health care delivery and, without in-person support, are at high risk of relapse. 

And a vital aspect of in-person treatment is access to medication. Medications for addiction treatment are tightly regulated and must be administered in person by a medical professional. If medication rounds are interrupted, patients experience painful side effects that make it difficult to stay on their path to recovery. 

The Way Forward  

The American College of Physicians has expressed its recommendation for fulfilling the treatment needs of patients, with the emphasis on automation: “…technologies as automated, secure pill dispensers, unlocking daily medication doses and alerting programs about missed doses or device tampering. Other programs may include video-based ‘directly observed therapy’ by using approaches first developed for treating tuberculosis that provides a video record of medication ingestion at home for confirmatory viewing by program staff.”
These solutions require concerted coordination between existing treatment channels and doctors, technology providers, and social services agencies. During the pandemic, the specialty substance use disorder treatment system must be integrated with other service providers who can help ensure the safety of patients with opioid use disorder. Now more than ever, patients need comprehensive case management with linkages to housing and social services programs.

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