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How COVID-19 is Affecting Addiction Across America

Amid recent developments, the CDC, local governments, the White House, and other health-centered organizations have shifted their focus to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Of course, we all agree that the current pandemic is a global crisis warranting all hands on deck. Addiction and COVID-19 are both national pandemics.

However, the presence of this pandemic does not put the opioid epidemic and overall national addiction crisis on hold. Addiction is a continuous issue that may worsen as does the COVID-19 epidemic. 

In just 2018 alone, over 1.6 million people in the United States reported a substance use disorder. This does not include all of the individuals without an unrecognized and undiagnosed substance use disorder. That same year, over 67,000 Americans died from an overdose. In just a few months, 30,000 people died across the globe from COVID-19.

We want to bring awareness to the fact that we cannot turn our backs to the millions battling addiction, or the 67,000 overdose deaths could rise significantly and pile on top of the coronavirus-related deaths. 

Surviving Drug Addiction During COVID-19

With everything happening, a shift of resources away from individuals struggling with addiction increases the risk of addicts contracting this virus and dying from a drug or alcohol overdose. Last year was the first time in decades that there was a decrease in drug-related overdoses, but a battle that we just started to control might take another turn for the worse. 

Addiction & Immune Health

People struggling with substance use, whether it be alcohol or any number of drugs, already have lowered immune systems. Alcohol, heroin, and cocaine are just a few substances that take a severe toll on one’s immune health. According to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, “Cocaine may weaken the body’s natural defenses by dramatically altering the numbers and genetic machinery of an important type of immune cell from the thymus gland.” There are studies to prove the correlations, but the overall increase in health issues among drug users says it is all. 

In addition to frequent colds and infections, drug use increases the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV, TB, Hepatitis, and other infections. These diseases further dramatically decrease immune strength. The marks against drug and alcohol addicts, even the ones seeking treatment, are piling against them. All of this and we haven’t even talked about how treatment and support efforts are being affected by COVID-19. 

A Decrease In Addiction Resources & Support

The stay-at-home orders issued for communities across the globe are necessary and good, but what does this mean for the man who is used to attending AA meetings two times a day? Or what about the pregnant woman who is getting medication-assisted opioid addiction treatment and needs to take the bus to her doctor every day? AA and NA meetings are shutting down as gatherings over ten people are no longer allowed.

The sobriety of its members is being put to the test. The pregnant woman has to risk contracting COVID-19 while she waits for the bus with a limited run schedule. She and her baby’s life are at serious risk, and providing support is harder than ever. 

Addiction Treatment & COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

Addiction treatment facilities often have clients fly into a facility far from their unhealthy environment. However, flights are currently a non-option with the spread of COVID-19. Many facilities are bussing clients in or picking them up, but the ability to travel is not simple right now. Depending on the substance, the user may begin feeling withdrawal symptoms in as little at 5 or 6 hours.

Getting them to a facility before this begins means limiting how far they can go and restricting their treatment options. It’s not ideal, but the industry is working hard to do what it can. 

Some organizations are offering group support meetings online. Doctors and patients are doing what they can. Treatment facilities are working to provide every mode of transportation they can to get addicts the help they need. Unfortunately, there is no way to know if all of this will be enough. Addiction and COVID-19 may lead to the death of 10’s of thousands of individuals over the coming weeks and months. 

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we are here to support those in need. Addiction is an ongoing battle for our team, and COVID-19 is only one more fight for us to take on. We are here, and we are ready for it. If you or a loved one struggles to get or stay clean and sober, give us a call now.

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