The current isolation and social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic may put drug addicts at risk for relapse. Mental health experts have recently been discussing different ways of coping with isolation and anxiety regarding COVID-19.
An expert named Dr. Lawrence Brown Jr., who is the CEO of the nonprofit START Treatment & Recovery Centers, stated that the pandemic might lead to an unexpected rise in alcohol and drug relapses among recovering addicts. He explained that relapsing from drug addiction is possible if people feel isolated, stressed, and frightened of the pandemic. He also added that people who currently lack support systems, programs, and relationships that encourage sobriety might try to self-medicate to cope with anxiety, stress, and isolation.
How can Coronavirus Stress Triggers Risks for Relapse
Many Americans do not have any experience with pandemics since the last one that occurred in the 1910s affecting millions of residents.
The surprise of COVID-19 now has caused lots of mental health problems such as confusion, anxiety, pain, stress, and even depression. However, the most evident mental issue is the stress arising from the coronavirus outbreak.
For instance, if a loved one has coronavirus infection, stress can come from uncertainty. Additionally, uninfected people are currently practicing social distancing. Some are even in quarantine completely until the pandemic is over. Therefore, stress caused by long-time quarantine is different than one resulting from isolation and a distraction of our daily activities.
So for those in addiction recovery, it means they do not interact with their support network more often, and they have less regular visits with rehab therapists, causing even more stress. These disruptions can quickly put those struggling with drug addiction into risks of relapse.
Also, addicts can easily relapse if they realize that their former addictive habits can relieve their stress temporarily. The reason is that they lack proper or full support from rehab sessions, which address risks for relapse in various programs since most of them are not currently active.
Alternatives of Self-Care During Quarantine to Deal with Risks for Relapse
Since the usual coping mechanism for stress is not available from rehab visits, drug addicts need to find new strategies to help them avoid risks for relapse. These approaches can be mostly holistic. For instance, practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga can be an excellent way of coping with stress.
Other alternatives to minimize stress during quarantine include getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising regularly, creating routines and schedules, and sticking to them while doing other productive activities.
Support for Addicts Struggling With Mental Health Due to the Pandemic
Many who especially alcoholics in addiction recovery have been attending general meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). However, due to the current pandemic, the government has prohibited large gatherings. For people to continue receiving addiction recovery programs, many organizations have started using virtual support meetings.
Online support meetings using video and call chats with tech devices such as computers or phones are providing aftercare group meetings. Many people are interacting with peers in recovery groups. Virtual meetings are currently one of the best strategies to prevent mental health issues that may trigger risks for relapse arising from the pandemic.