After more than six months of struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, mankind can start gathering information and drawing conclusions regarding its influence on human well-being. Although social distancing seems to be the best way to avoid the virus spreading, it has a notable impact on the overall condition of health worldwide. The socio-economic implications of the pandemic are leaving deep scars and emotional traumas on people raising the number of mental health issues. The restriction of social interactions, combined with feelings such as boredom, insecurity, loneliness, fear, or despair created an ideal ground for a significantly enlarged statistic of domestic and child abuse, self-harm, suicide, and substance misuse cases.
The psychosocial impact of lockdown is especially hard for the members of a marginalized community, such as those with substance use disorder. Apart from being vulnerable to infection, they are also extremely sensitive to additional psychosocial pressure. The social distancing policies can be particularly hard for some of them if they depend on help and support from free drug rehabs or free substance abuse programs. In this situation, any exception from the usual routine can have a serious negative impact on their recovery.
According to expert’s findings, the clash of the COVID-19 pandemic and addiction will result in more new and relapsed cases than usual, as well as withdrawal emergencies with a higher risk of overdose deaths. Since the healthcare facilities are already under a lot of pressure people who suffer from addiction often cannot access health care on time or it could be inadequate for a particular case which could have serious consequences for their health. Furthermore, many free rehab centers were forced to change their working policy or alter it in some way to meet the lockdown rules which affected standard rehabilitation strategies and programs.
Situations, such as the COVID-19 lockdown, can be an unpleasant experience and a source of negative emotions for everybody. Even for people who enjoy solitude, forcible isolation from society during uncertain times can produce fear, despair, and similar emotions that could ultimately lead to negative behavior. Due to the lack of facetime with other people, many will search for activities to compensate for it. For example, these coping mechanisms could lead to addiction to online gambling, even if the person wasn’t much interested in it before, or to have more than one or two occasional drinks just to kill time or to calm the nerves.
Under these conditions, people with substance use disorder are even at greater risk because the ways of reaching out and finding help in places such as church help groups, AA meetings, and other ways of receiving free addiction help are significantly downsized or limited. In the case of relapsing, the only place that can assist are hospitals, which nowadays usually have overbooked schedules. Waiting in-line or for the pandemic to pass could be too late for many.
Fortunately, there are ways to start and keep the treatment going even during the lockdown. The good news is that more and more programs are moving on platforms such as Skype and offering the complete program, from online assessment for new patients to telephone 1:1 counseling and 12-step meetings with other patients and supporters.
Online support groups are spreading and it will be less and less complicated to find a suitable one. Due to skepticism or computer literacy, many are not ready to join it yet while for others it takes a while to get used to this type of meeting. Of course, nothing can replace the face to face conversation with an already familiar group of people but for the moment this is the next best thing to keep the sobriety and god spirit alive. Some free drug rehab centers near me already prepared online brochures, with guidelines and advice on how to organize daily routine and avoid relapses. They are also available 24/7 on the helplines, for any additional support or help. Many rehabilitation centers adjusted their accommodations to the social distancing policies and are open for people with substance use disorder for 30, 60, or 90 days treatments.
As no one can predict how long will the COVID-19 lockdown lasts, communication technologies will probably be the next step in the development of substance use disorder programs. Technology solutions such as the Internet of Things (IoT) has already shown useful in monitoring sick and elderly people with health issues, so it’s safe to assume that it will be also used to help people manage, self-monitor, and keep their addiction symptoms under control, even with a reduced number of treatment visits or hospitalization. Some analyses reported that video interactions with therapists have positive effects on patients with mental health issues and these findings will be incorporated into the studies working on telehealth and similar digital treatments.
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