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Barriers for Treatment of Substance Use Disorders During A Pandemic

by Samantha Horton

As we enter 2021, the lasting effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic seem to increase in severity with each passing day. Hospitals are struggling to keep up with increasing demands and it is said that care will begin to be rationed if demand continues to balloon in the coming weeks and months. What does this mean for those who need care not related to COVID-19?
In an article by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focusing on national health issues, data from independent polling of the foundation showed increases in stress in the population and subsequent negative impact on individual’s mental health and well-being. Past research has shown that an increase in stress and mental health issues may lead to increased substance use and/or abuse. With social isolation, a decrease in treatment availability due to capacity restrictions and closures, barriers to getting treatment become more prevalent. Where can those who are going through detox symptoms or just beginning their sobriety go for help?
In many circumstances, individuals new to sobriety and recovery rely on recovery meetings regularly for support and accountability outside of individual or group therapy. They are often available anytime throughout the day and create a sense of stability when things are thrown into chaos. During the pandemic, meetings such as AA, NA, Smart Recovery or Celebrate Recovery are no longer able to meet in person, which may result in increased feelings of isolation.

Moving forward, accessibility to treatment may become more difficult as restrictions and social distancing limit capacity for residential programs and outpatient treatment. Although virtual sessions or meetings are still accessible, not leaving the chaos to go to a place of stability may cause increased stress or feelings of isolation or hopelessness. Greater Family Health continues to see patients in person, including individual counseling sessions and medication assisted treatment assessments and intakes. Referrals for treatment can be sent to Claire Brown or Isabel Acevedo.

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