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How the Coronavirus Is Affecting the Recovery Community

COVID-19 has disrupted communities all over the world. While it has put vulnerable people at risk of severe health complications, others have felt the effects as nations respond to the epidemic. The need to protect our vulnerable neighbors by slowing the spread of this virus has led companies, communities, and individuals to adapt their daily lives to the guidelines that are given by healthcare professionals. All over the country, people are fighting the other epidemic of substance abuse and addiction. How is the coronavirus affecting the recovery community? 

How People with SUDs are at Risk

People with substance use disorders (SUDs) may be more vulnerable to viruses at specific stages of recovery. People in active addiction or the early stages of recovery may go through uncomfortable and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol and other depressants can cause delirium tremens and seizures that can be deadly without treatment. Opioids cause withdrawal symptoms that mimic the flu, which can lead to dehydration, which is fatal in rare cases. However, withdrawal may be complicated by the addition of a virus-like COVID-19. 

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection, and in severe cases, it can cause trouble breathing. Many people in the recovery community have a history of smoking cigarettes, marijuana, meth, or crack. Anyone with compromised lungs may experience more severe symptoms like respiratory failure

Though some people in addiction treatment are in hospital or residential settings, the majority of people in recovery are in outpatient settings, or they’re in aftercare. For the most part, these people attend rehab during the day, they may also attend 12-step meetings, and they return home at night. That means someone in recovery may interact with many people each day.

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Resource Disparities

People with SUDs need access to regular health care. However, with hospitals and clinics dealing with the virus, there may be decreased access to health services for people with SUDs. SUDs often come with other issues like a higher risk for infectious diseases or long term health issues caused by addictions to harmful drugs. As resources are thinned, communities that require frequent access to healthcare may be at risk.

Does Treatment Involve Large Groups?

The recovery community often emphasizes personal connection and involvement with group activities.

For the most part, treatment facilities try to limit the ratio of clients to clinicians.

That means group sizes are generally small. Larger facilities may include group activities that exceed ten people, which is the latest social distancing recommendation from the White House.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings can become quite large.

These practices are good for recovery, but they may need to adapt to follow the social distancing model. 

Sign informing citizens that they should wash hands, clean surfaces, and social distance.

Adapting and Taking Precautions

Though there are some complications that COVID-19 presents to the recovery community, addiction treatment is a form of health care, and safety is a top priority. Many clinics already encouraged cleanliness, hand washing, and other general healthy practices before the coronavirus started. Others have installed hand sanitizing stations and new regulations as a response to the virus. The recovery community will need to take precautions and pay attention to how this virus progresses. If you or someone you know is in the recovery community, follow expert advice in dealing with COVID-19. If you feel sick, stay away from other people and call your doctor. Wash your hands and avoid large gatherings in the coming weeks.

Sources

American Psychiatric Association. (2017, January). What Is Addiction? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction

CDC. (n.d.). Smoking and Respiratory Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/50th-anniversary/pdfs/fs_smoking_respiratory_508.pdf

Liptak, K. (2020, March 17). White House advises public to avoid groups of more than 10, asks people to stay away from bars and restaurants. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/16/politics/white-house-guidelines-coronavirus/index.html

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, January 1). Delirium tremens: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000766.htm

World Health Organization. (2020, March 18). Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – events as they happen. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen

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