In mid-March of 2020, the world was faced with a global pandemic caused by the Novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The first case originated in Wuhan, China, before quickly spreading across the world in a matter of months. To protect anyone who was not infected and those at higher risks, such as the elderly, extreme measures were taken by governments and health organizations worldwide.
These precautionary steps included:
- social distancing
- social isolation
- travel bans
- closing down businesses
- mandatory protective gear use
These measures were aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 and decreasing rapidly-growing infection rates. Over the last 8 months, we have been forced to adapt to a new reality that comes with its own new set of challenges and has changed how we interact with one another.
The increased stress and hardships we have all faced during this pandemic have taken a toll on our mental health and wellbeing. Healthy coping mechanisms that used to be available to us are now nearly impossible, given mandated social distancing regulations. That put an end to:
- meeting with friends
- attending therapy
- getting outside
- seeking help from doctors or urgent care facilities
For people suffering from addiction to drugs and or alcohol, this pandemic has made it even harder to seek out the help they need to overcome and manage their addictions. The added stress from situations such as increased unemployment rates and the deaths of family or loved ones from the virus have also caused many people to fall back on unhealthy behaviors to cope with the current situation.
Today we will be discussing how COVID-19 and addiction are closely related. It is time to take a closer look at the increase in overdoses that our country has experienced during this pandemic.
How Coronavirus Affects the Body
COVID-19 is spread through water droplets created by an infected person through the act of coughing, speaking, or sneezing. These droplets can travel through the air and land on nearby surfaces or enter through a person’s nose or mouth. Once the virus has entered the body through the mouth, nose, or eyes, it travels to the throat’s mucus membranes. Within 2-to-14 days, your immune system will go into full defense mode to get rid of the virus. This is when symptoms occur, such as:
- loss of smell
- body aches or chills
- loss of taste
- trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- confusion or dizziness
As we have seen throughout this pandemic, COVID-19 does not affect everyone the same way. In some cases, infected people can show no symptoms but still be carriers for the virus. These people are known to be asymptomatic. An asymptomatic person who does not practice social distancing or isolation can become a super spreader, which means they can infect a large number of people in a short amount of time.
In many cases across the world, symptoms are so severe that they have led to death. Unfortunately, out of the total 43.6 million cases, 1.16 million people worldwide have succumbed to their symptoms, and 29.2 million people have recovered from the virus.
With a total of 8.28 million cases in the United States, 226,000 deaths have occurred as of the writing of this article. The number of fatal cases across the country has slowly begun to decrease. However, we do still see an occasional spike in cases every so often. The current numbers do not compare to the significant spikes in deaths between April and June, with the most massive spike of 2,752 deaths on April 15th.
Addiction and the Pandemic
Many people and families worldwide have been affected by this pandemic in one way or another. As previously stated, the pandemic has led to many people suffering from addiction turning back to their old habits. 13% of adults living in the United States surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they started or increased substance use to cope with the added stress they experienced.
It is also important to note that states across the country have shown records of increased overdoses this year, beginning in March and April. With a projected number of 72,000 people who have passed away from overdoses, this number sets a new record regarding the 2019 statistic of 70,980 overdose fatalities in a year.
Counties and states across the country have shown more of an increase in overdoses this past year. Los Angeles County has seen a rise of 48% at the beginning of the pandemic. States such as Maine, Oregon, Connecticut, and New York also experienced spikes in overdoses over the same period.
As soon as infection rates from COVID-19 began to rise, governments worldwide issued mandatory social distancing and isolation orders. In some countries and states, violations were given if you did not follow the guidelines set in place. Strict stay-at-home orders meant nobody could leave their house unless under specific conditions.
Mental health and well-being are just as important as physical health. Unfortunately, with many people experiencing so much loss this year, it has been hard to find healthy ways to cope with these situations. Especially when some coping mechanisms involve human interaction, not everyone expresses stress the same way. Symptoms of this can include:
- difficulty sleeping
- increasing substance abuse
- consistent fear and worry
- difficulty eating
- worsening of mental health and chronic illnesses
Extended periods of stress on the body can cause a vast array of problems, as listed above. It’s essential to find healthy ways to cope when other avenues are not offered.
The Relationship Between COVID-19 and Addiction
You cannot directly link COVID-19 and addiction. However, apparent factors contribute to increased stress, worry, and anxiety that the pandemic has caused. Other than social distancing and isolation, many people have lost their jobs. “The unemployment rate peaked at an unprecedented level, not seen since data collection started in 1948, in April 2020 (14.7%) before declining to a still-high level in September (7.9%).”
Other factors that have contributed to added stress from COVID-19 include:
- not being able to see family and friends
- worrying about money
- fear of not having a job
During times of high stress, turning to an old habit might seem comforting to most people. Since the pandemic has limited the available resources for people suffering from addiction, it has made it more challenging than ever to cope with the added stress. This adds to the relation between COVID-19 and addiction
Because of social distancing and isolation, being able to see your doctor for health problems or a routine check-up has been nearly impossible. However, our healthcare system has implemented a new approach to healthcare called Teledoc Health. Teledoc is an added benefit to your health insurance plan and has many benefits.
Instead of leaving your home’s security to see your healthcare provider, you are now able to meet with a doctor via phone or Zoom call to discuss your health concerns. In most cases, you are paired with a physician after answering a simple questionnaire regarding any symptoms and problems you are experiencing.
After your visit, the doctor will be able to prescribe you medication to help with many ailments. Another benefit to this system is that therapists are included in the Teledoc network and can help those suffering from potential relapses.
Even though this system works wonders for those who genuinely need distance care, it is not available to everyone. Depending on the insurance plan you have this service may or may not be offered to you. If you are unsure it’s best to check with your insurance company regarding coverage. Prescription opioids could be more accessible now than ever before for those that it is available for.
COVID-19 and Addiction: Conclusion
As we can see from the statistics above, COVID-19 and addiction are closely related. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that human connection is essential for those suffering from drug or alcohol addiction.
At Serenity Springs, we have implemented safety procedures at our facility to ensure our staff and patients stay safe and play a role in stopping the spread of COVID-19. No matter the circumstance of the world outside, you do not need to battle your addictions alone. If you are interested in learning more about the programs and services we offer, check us out online or call today to speak with a staff member.