Substance Use During The Pandemic: A Guide To Treatment And Recovery

The coronavirus pandemic caused upheaval in people’s lives, including substance abuse. With no access to traditional coping mechanisms like social interactions, some people turned to substances like alcohol for relief.

Luckily, various treatment options exist for those still struggling with this condition. For instance, addiction treatment and recovery centers like have the skills and equipment to help with a wide range of substance-related disorders including:

  • Alcoholism
  • Opioid addiction
  • Cocaine addiction
  • Meth addiction
  • Heroin addiction
  • Meth addiction
  • Opioid addiction
  • Co-occurring disorders (addiction and other mental health conditions

If you or someone you know developed substance abuse during the pandemic, this article is for you. Below is a guide to treatment and recovery to help you get your life back on track

Increased Substance Use And Addiction During The Pandemic

Prior to COVID-19’s emergence, there were already growing concerns over increasing rates related to addiction globally. However, studies have indicated a significant rise across some forms of drug use since then.

People were turning toward drugs or alcohol due to several factors associated with living under COVID restrictions. These include boredom and loneliness resulting from lack of social contact and financial strain from job losses or reduced hours. 

Additionally, many personal businesses had to close temporarily due to the pandemic. This affected those within the lower socioeconomic class. These people were already predisposed to substance use to cope with limited resources. Increased pressure at home amidst family members and fear from news reports also caused pressure and uncertainty.

Furthermore, others lost access to support services that they relied upon before the pandemic, leaving them unable to deal with their addiction safely and effectively. This was concerning given the fact that many types of addiction require long-term treatments.

Consequences Of Substance Use During The Pandemic

All the above factors combined created a perfect storm for some people to self-medicate with substances. This was incredibly dangerous and has had lasting negative impacts. The potential consequences range from:

  • Physical health concerns, such as liver damage or organ failure caused by excessive alcohol consumption
  • Long-term impacts on mental health, including depression and anxiety, when using illicit drugs over extended periods.
  • Disruption of sleep cycles leading to fatigue and further cognitive impairment

Moreover, there’s been an increase in the number of emergency room visits associated with overdoses since the lockdowns started. Such a crisis could lead to tragic and unnecessary deaths if swift action isn’t taken immediately.

There’s also a significant risk in terms of substance abuse during pregnancy. Both the mother and the baby could face irreversible health complications, potentially leading to long-term problems.

Steps To Help You In The Treatment And Recovery Journey

With the world recovering from COVID-19, some people still suffer from substance abuse that started or exacerbated during that period. If you’re one of those people, all hope isn’t lost. Here are steps you can take to facilitate substance abuse treatment and recovery:

Step One: Assess Your Situation

If you’re concerned about potential drug addiction, take some time to assess your substance use situation. Substance use disorder occurs when someone uses drugs regularly despite knowing it’ll cause them harm. It often leads to dependence which results in difficulties controlling their intake.

This condition may involve illegal substances like cocaine, heroin, and marijuana and legal prescription medications without a prescription. Note that not everyone who drinks alcohol or takes recreational drugs will develop an addiction. It calls for mindfulness before making any assumptions.

If you’re still concerned, there are certain behaviors that might indicate you have SUD. They include changes in sleeping patterns or mood and neglecting responsibilities like work or school obligations.

You may also find yourself withdrawing from people and engaging in risky activities like reckless driving or unprotected sex. If these signs persist over time or become more frequent, it could indicate that you need professional help. Most importantly, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Step Two: Understand Addiction

The second step when considering treatment is understanding what addiction looks and feels like from both physical and psychological perspectives. You may research how it develops over time due to changes in the brain and why people become dependent. Seek to know potential side effects, too.

On the one hand, this knowledge base allows family members or friends to be better equipped to help effectively. This eliminates the possibility of enabling dangerous behaviors that may cause more harm than addiction-related issues.

Step Three: Find Treatment Options

The next step is finding a treatment program that best fits your unique needs. There are two main treatment options: residential rehabs and outpatient programs or therapies. The latter doesn’t require full-time commitment at a facility but still involves structured plans for abstinence.

Residential rehabs typically offer therapies tailored to address addiction issues while providing 24-hour medical care and supervision. They also allow individuals more time away from situations that may contribute to their addictions. This can be beneficial when external triggers might be ha even without added environmental pressures.

Outpatient alternatives include remote therapy sessions via phone calls or video conferencing (telehealth services). These services can be used effectively by individuals who want help but may feel uncomfortable around people.

Virtual support groups also exist online and provide a safe space where members can connect from home via video chat programs. They hold meetings that offer support explicitly tailored toward helping you stay sober and managing the stressors of day-to-day life.

Outpatient programs also include community-based activities and groups. For instance, recovery support groups allow you to connect and talk openly in a safe environment surrounded by like-minded people.

Many of these meetings moved online during the pandemic and are now more accessible. These peer-to-peer networks provide much-needed support when trying to stay sober is difficult.

They also allow you to talk without fear of judgment, which could make it easier to cope. You also benefit from having real-time assistance and building stronger bonds over shared experiences. This helps prevent potential relapses as you also get tips and advice from members further along in their recovery.

It’s vital to remember that these meetings aren’t meant to replace medical treatments. They should supplement them while providing an additional layer of support that might not be present in other options.

Most importantly, it’s vital to not only consider cost but also look into programs that provide comprehensive care. It may also be beneficial to explore options where family members can participate. This way, everyone gets involved and understands what recovery looks like and how to enhance it.

Step Four: Set Goals

Setting achievable goals can help increase motivation and focus when recovering from addiction. This includes short-term objectives, such as getting through one day without using drugs or alcohol. You also need long-term ones, which are more aspirational. For example, going back to school or finding a job are excellent choices.

Ensure these goals align with personal values, so they don’t feel forced by external pressures. Instead, they should provide direction for your life moving forward. Even if that means taking small steps at a time initially, the benefits are still worth it.

Step Five: Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Opting for a healthy lifestyle is integral if you’re recovering from substance abuse. Establishing a positive routine is the best thing you can do in this regard. This could include anything from regular exercise, even if it’s done indoors, to meditating and journaling daily goals and gratitude. You can also read books that offer comfort and inspiration or engage with friends—as long as it keeps you busy and keeps your mind away from substances you’re hooked to. Eating nutritious foods and getting enough sleep is also recommended.

Ultimately, remember that health doesn’t mean perfection. Always strive to do your best each day and be kind to yourself no matter the progress.

Step Six:  Explore Alternative Coping Mechanisms

Participating in activities outside what you usually do can also help break old habits. You can also build new ones that are more conducive to healthier lifestyle choices. Examples include meditating, joining clubs related to sports that interest you, and starting art classes or online courses related to your development goals.

Doing something different helps you gain a new perspective. It also allows you to escape everyday stresses and pressures, even if it’s just for a few hours each week. This step will work incredibly well if used to supplement existing treatments already being undergone.

Step Seven: Develop Relapse Prevention Strategies

Having strategies in place in case of potential relapses can help you stay on track toward your recovery goals. It allows you to plan for moments when temptations might arise, leading you back into substance abuse. This step involves identifying triggers and developing methods to address cravings when experienced.

Furthermore, document any warning signs that might serve as early indicators that you’re heading back down the slippery slope. Note your changes in mood or behaviors that may be associated with cravings. Ensure it’s a living document rather than a one-off creation, so update it regularly for it to remain relevant.

Also, having an emergency contact list at home with numbers and emails of people who can support you helps. They can provide company, as you’ll need someone to be with you for reassurance if a relapse occurs.

Step Eight: Utilize Technology For Support

Many organizations now offer virtual tools to assist patients throughout the treatment process and after the program ends. Apps, for example, allow users to keep daily logs outlining progress made over time, set reminders, and check themselves before using substances again.

Such modern innovations also help bridge the gap between medical professionals working remotely from their patients. They help provide real-time feedback regarding a condition and maintain the privacy necessary for successful rehabilitation efforts.

Step Nine: Find A Mentor

Having a mentor is priceless when undergoing treatment and recovery from SUD. They can offer guidance and support on issues like staying sober in social gatherings and navigating withdrawal symptoms. They do this while lending a non-judgmental listening ear.

It’s also wise to research different mentor options before committing to anyone. This is because they’ll have slightly different approaches toward helping clients achieve sobriety. The main thing in this step is ensuring this person isn’t an active user. Otherwise, their advice may not be entirely beneficial.

Step Ten: Seek More Specialized Treatment

If all else fails and you’re still unable to manage substance use issues, then professional help may be for you. Therapy and counseling sessions could spell the difference between relapse prevention and failure.

Patients get access to resources necessary for continued sobriety, such as medication management plans targeted toward their needs. These programs have been carefully studied so treatment providers can better understand how medications interact differently within various body types. Doctors can then determine the best course of action without risks or side effects.

If you go to the hospital, your doctor will likely recommend various forms of therapy depending on your situation. These may include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and medication management. They may also refer you to specialist services for additional support.

Additionally, most facilities allow further exploration into the underlying causes behind addiction. It gives you a chance to confront trauma head-on rather than sweep it under the rug indefinitely. It’s worth noting, however, that not all treatments will suit everyone, so research on this and ask questions.

Final Words

It’s clear that COVID-19 isn’t just a virus that attacks the human respiratory system. It’s also proven to be a mental trigger exacerbating existing addiction issues worldwide. This has led to negative consequences as the issue is never rectified correctly or soon enough. 

Substance use disorder that developed or worsened during the pandemic continues to be a severe issue that needs to be properly addressed. Nonetheless, understanding its occurrence and how to mitigate its risks makes it easier for sufferers to receive appropriate care.  

Hopefully, this guide will help you seek help and leave substance use behind for good. As you dive in, remember that there’ll always be hope no matter what you’ve been through. So, don’t give up! 

Elizabeth Willett (MA)
Elizabeth Willett (MA)
Elizabeth Willett has an M.A in health and fitness, is an experienced trainer, and enjoys teaching children about healthy eating habits. She loves to cook nutritious meals for her family.


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