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Addiction stops for nothing, not even COVID-19


Caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, Coronavirus 2019 (or COVID-19) is an illness that is highly infectious and spread from person to person through droplets that carry airborne particles. A respiratory illness, most people recover at home after a few days of cold or flu-like symptoms, but some cases require medical assistance and intensive care. Populations such as the elderly and those with underlying medical health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, or diabetes are at a higher risk for severe illness. The World Health Organization classified the virus as a pandemic in March 2020 after cases began to rapidly spread across the globe. COVID-19 is deadly. Approximately 943,411 Americans have died since the first case was recorded in the country nearly 2 years ago.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, there have been genetic mutations to the disease which cause different strains called variants. Though there are many, the variants of the largest concern in the US right now are Delta and Omicron. While Delta is seemingly more serious and contagious than the original coronavirus, Omicron currently has the highest transmission rate of all. Luckily, however, the symptoms and overall illness has been less severe than both previous strains.

How Can I Stay Healthy?

The best way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated. All coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective in reducing the spread of this deadly and contagious illness. Unvaccinated people are at a much higher risk of dangerous and deadly illness than fully vaccinated people.

Those who are vaccinated may still contract and spread COVID-19, but the chance of serious illness is significantly lower. From mid-December 2020 through the beginning of February 2022, more than 543 million doses of the vaccine have been administered throughout the United States. Scientists are continuing to study and monitor the effectiveness of the current vaccines against Omicron and other variants but becoming fully vaccinated (including both/all doses and boosters) ensures the highest level of protection against current and emerging variants.

Due to the high infection rate of coronavirus, masks (indoors and around others) and social distancing are still recommended by the CDC as a way to continue to curb the intensity of the spread. As of February 2022, just over 60% of the US is fully vaccinated and as such, a higher level of compliance is still the goal considering there is still cause for concern for those struggling with “long COVID,” or symptoms extending past a few weeks/months after initial infection.

In What Ways Has COVID-19 Affected Addiction?

Sadly, there are a multitude of reasons as to why the pandemic has such a close relationship with addiction. With many experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms of long COVID, doctors have been prescribing Opioids at a higher rate than before which is quite concerning for a country still fighting an uphill battle in the Opioid Epidemic. Abusing Opioids is dangerous as is, but when mixed with other substances such as alcohol or other illicit drugs, the risk of a fatal overdose is increased.

Times are tough and many are turning to substances to drown their sadness or loneliness, making it even more challenging for those attempting to maintain sobriety. Social distancing and seclusion have led to higher rates of mental health disorders and the will to abstain from drugs and alcohol is tested. Over the course of the pandemic, there has been a 13% increase in substance use disorders (SUD)s due to COVID-19-related stress and as much as a 42% increase of adults experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression. Some studies reflect a 25.8% increase in anxiety among health care workers and clinical insomnia has risen 37%.

Can Substance Use Affect COVID-19?

Similar to those with underlying health conditions, individuals with substance use disorders risk a more intense, and sometimes deadly, case of coronavirus. Alcohol, for example, has been shown to damage the cells in the lining of the lung, weakening the tissue and thus increasing the possibility of respiratory illness when consumed in high volumes. The damage excessive alcohol consumption causes to the internal organs can also lead to chronic and life-threatening conditions that further the risk and exacerbate the symptoms of COVID-19. Other substances like drugs that are injected such as Heroin or other Opioids increase the likelihood of HIV exposure and contraction, especially when needles are being shared. In a study that compared the effects of COVID-19 on individuals with various SUDs and those without, researchers found that those suffering under the weight of drugs had a higher prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases in the kidney, liver, and lung. Both the death and hospitalization rates in COVID-19 patients with SUDs were approximately 4 and 10% higher respectively than patients without addiction.

Considering that most substances (especially when abused) lower an individual’s inhibitions, it is harder to follow and adhere to safety protocol. When judgment is impaired, decision-making and discernment significantly affect an individual’s ability to assess situations and the associated risks. Social distancing, mask-wearing, and other safety guidelines become even more challenging than normal to enforce and maintain which puts themselves and those close to them at greater risk of catching COVID-19.

Is It Safe To Seek Treatment?

Yes, it is. As rehab is an essential service, centers are open to provide those struggling with addiction the assistance and care they need despite the spread of COVID-19. If you or someone you know and love is experiencing a life half lived because of addiction, know you are not alone; it is possible to begin recovery today.

Treatment facilities are responding to the ongoing pandemic with the utmost precaution and care regarding the safety of patients and staff. Inpatient centers are requiring patients to be tested as well as enforcing mask-wearing and social distancing among residents. There are also many facilities that have utilized Telehealth, an online platform that connects patients with providers, as a way to minimize physical contact.

Rehab centers provide a safe and therapeutic environment for their patients and staff and the safety and health of everyone is a top priority. So much of life right now is new and unknown, which could be the nudge you or your loved one needs to begin treatment. If work, school, or other activities and obligations have been postponing your first step toward recovery, now might be the perfect time to invest in becoming your best self.

At a professional rehabilitation facility, you can effectively detox, begin therapy, join a support group, and learn ways to cope with and manage your desire to use. If you’re interested in rehab, please reach out to a treatment provider; with one phone call, you can learn the answers to questions like:

  • Do I need rehab?
  • How does treatment work?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • How can I convince my loved one to get help?

COVID-19 has changed so much of how we live, but don’t let it stand in the way of receiving the treatment you need and deserve. Rehab Spot is working to provide you with the most accurate, relevant, and up to date information regarding addiction and abuse treatment and recovery, especially as it related to the coronavirus pandemic.

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