As mentioned in the previous blog, addiction was an epidemic before the COVID pandemic was declared a national emergency in early 2020. Unfortunately, the use of substances has continued to rise since the onset of the pandemic, yet, COVID has remained our country’s top priority as it overshadows those with addiction. This leaves the already slim-to-none access to proper treatment even more nil.
When the pandemic began, health officials were already nervous about the susceptibility those with addiction would face. Here we are, nearly two years later, with more data showing support to this hypothesis. A study done in Molecular Psychiatry revealed that people with a substance use disorder are not only at higher risk of contracting the virus but may also suffer more serious consequences as a result of a body being more vulnerable to infection. But how has the pandemic really impacted those in treatment and recovery for substance use disorders? Newfound challenges during the height of the pandemic forced people to go without routine medications or means of support because of quarantine and social distancing.
As a substance use and mental health counselor, I am seeing more and more people make unhealthy decisions because of stress and isolation. Although the vaccine has been available, not all individuals have had them. Masks are still required in about 40-50% of places. This pandemic (the COVID one) has taken away many opportunities to learn about stress and anxiety management. For example, partaking in some sort of physical activity or participating in groups to connect and find some social interaction help many find a sense of balance and stability. More importantly, habitual commitment is vital in early recovery. These “new norms” have set a steady decline in mental health and substance use sources for those looking to decrease their stress, anxiety, depression, and use as well as a safe place to work through the grief and loss of identity. Yes, grief is not only associated with the loss of another!
As a therapist, I have noticed a multitude of new clients seeking therapy for what most of the time, clients lack a word for, but instead state, “I don’t know what this is, but I don’t like it.” This is an adjustment and uncomfortableness with the unknown. It is not only the workforce but the stay-at-home parents caring for their children, and even the kids themselves who are questioning, “who am I?” Often in therapy with clients, we are looking at purpose and meaning. Re-evaluating values and finding new directions to live with this unknown. This unknown is what typically turns one to use anything as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, the most available and legal substance is alcohol. Regardless, even though a tad less, stigma is (?) and true.
As reported earlier this year, only around 10% of people receive treatment for addiction as a result of stigma that continues to surround substance use. William Stoops, Ph.D., a professor of behavioral science, psychiatry and psychology at the University of Kentucky says, “Physicians have been concentrating largely on COVID-19 and medical systems are overwhelmed, so people can’t always access the care they need. There’s also a stigma around substance use disorder that keeps people away from treatment, even more so during a pandemic.” Fear of being blamed, shamed, and seen as having moral weakness or flawed character contributes toward reluctance to seek medical treatment for fear of receiving substandard care which only puts more people at risk of infection or relapse.
Addiction of any kind, with any substance, (still) remains a brain disease, and it is still a family disease. Along with the increase of use, I am seeing the families with the same amount (if not more) of denial. It is a fight an addict cannot do alone, or most likely they would have done so already, but with COVID, all at home and the limited access to others who share in this common problem, families need to step up their game more than ever.
To read more and access additional resources and support for the families and addicts alike, please check out the following links:
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation: www.hazeldenbetterford.org/recovery/families-friends
Learn to Cope: www.learn2cope.org/
Parents of Addicted Loved Ones: https://palgroup.org/
Al-Anon Family Groups: www.aa.org
This is not a moral issue, nor a weakness. Speak up. Being open to vulnerability just might save another person and/or family’s life. Addiction does not define the addict nor their mom, dad, brother, sister, spouse, and so on.
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About Sam Nabil
Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Boston therapist and a Boston Marriage Counselor.
Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com
About Naya Clinics
Naya Clinics is a top-rated Marriage Counseling, therapy and Life coaching practice.
Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world. Naya Clinics also offers Online marriage counseling, online therapy, and online life coaching.
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