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Addiction During COVID-19: How The Pandemic Is Causing Relapses

September 17, 2021

COVID-19 has negatively impacted numerous demographics all over the world. Recovering addicts are no exception. People were driven to isolation as social distancing and virus prevention measures were implemented. This meant disrupting the healthy routines and patterns that recovering patients have established for themselves, hence increasing the likelihood of relapses.

Basic Statistics

There was an increase in relapse rates when the pandemic hit. Aside from that, there were increased emergency calls, overdose-related deaths, and alcohol sales during the first year of the pandemic. 

How Did The Pandemic Cause Relapses?

Increased Risk Factors

Human connection is a core psychological need and is a key factor for a successful recovery. A recovering patient’s network of support is important because this is a source of encouragement for them to continue along the journey to self-healing. This network also serves as an accountability system where their actions could be monitored so that they won’t relapse.

With this network gone, the risk factors increase. Recovering patients have more freedom to purchase the addictive substances they are trying to recover from. This also means that they have more time alone with their thoughts. This could easily snowball into negative feelings of self-hatred, doubt, and loneliness. With no one by their side to stop them, they will be more likely to relapse instead of living with the harsh reality.

Forced Self-Medication

Recovering patients were forced into isolation in order to comply with social distancing regulations. This intensified their feelings of stress, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and boredom. 

Everyone’s mental health definitely took a hit from the pandemic, but the recovering patients are more vulnerable than most. As they face emotional distress, they will feel the need to resort to these addictive substances to escape their problems. 

Signs Of Relapse

Being familiar with the signs of relapse can make all the difference in your drug or alcohol addiction recovery process. An estimated 40 to 60 percent of recovering patients report at least one relapse during their recovery. This is proof that recovery is a lifelong process. Healing isn’t always linear. The best one can do is to avoid triggers that might escalate into a relapse so that the patient won’t fall back to their old ways.

Some of the telltale signs of relapse include:

  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Poor eating habits or lack of appetite
  • Poor hygiene
  • Reinitiating communication with friends who drink alcohol or use drugs
  • Chronic lying
  • Inability to communicate emotions
  • Ditching support meetings or group therapy

What To Do If A Loved One Relapsed During The Pandemic

Resist the urge to aggressively confront your loved one at the moment they relapse. Remember that they are a slave to their addictions and they are doing the best they can to not let it get the best of them. They’ll need an environment full of love, support, and forgiveness. These will encourage them to get back on track and to try again.

The best thing to do is to return to treatment. There are rehabilitation centers that are open and available during the pandemic. Some might have requirements for the patients like negative swab test results and the need to wear masks at all times.

Additionally, there are always online consultations available for patients. The patients can reach out to their therapists and counselors for guidance. This can be performed over phone calls or Zoom calls. The mere act of getting back in touch with their advisors will help them recalibrate their personal compasses.

Prioritize creating a safe and healthy environment at home. Just because everyone is mandated to self-quarantine does not mean that healthy routines should be abolished. A productive daily routine is an excellent way for recovering patients to stay sober. It gives them a sense of purpose and keeps their days filled. In that way, they will always be too occupied to feel cravings for drugs and alcohol. They will also be too busy to think about getting high or drunk. 

Lastly, re-establish the patient’s support system. Social interactions are more important now than ever. Social interactions are admittedly limited to phone calls or video chats but these are better than nothing.

You could schedule group calls so that the recovering patient will remember that they are surrounded by people who love them. The patient may also sign up for online support groups. These support groups instill their sense of belongingness to a community. Support groups are also great for inspiring the patient by looking at the success stories of those who are further along the line towards full recovery.

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