addiction treatment covid-19

Going to Rehab During the Pandemic

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Addiction is a beast that you already know you will be spending time fighting. The disease is not easy to get over, and the current global situation is likely to make it worse. Everyone is under more stress, and the temptation to reach for a pill or a drink for temporary relief is higher than ever.

Addiction is also a disease of isolation, and social distancing measures are increasing isolation and also making it less likely that people will be checked on.

But the open question is: Should you continue or start treatment with social distancing measures in place?

Should You Still Go to 12-Step and Other Group Meetings?

In areas with active outbreaks no, you should not go to group meetings face to face. While your recovery is important, controlling the virus matters a lot.

Instead, you should go with a program that is moving meetings online for the duration. Using video conferencing is a poor substitute for face-to-face, but it is considerably better than nothing and will help reduce your isolation.

What About Outpatient Treatment?

In many cases, much of your outpatient treatment can also be moved online. Therapy, for example, can be done over video conferencing software almost as easily as face to face. While it may not be as easy if you need to be prescribed medication, for many people recovering from addiction online programs can be helpful.

Obviously, if you are already in an online program you are fine. If not, talk to your therapist about moving into “virtual space” for your therapy and group sessions. Many clinics are already doing this and it makes sense for the vast majority of patients.

Should I Check Myself Into Rehab or Wait?

The answer to this is the same as it often is; it depends. If your problem is serious enough that you are a threat to yourself, then you should still check yourself in. Clinics are generally still doing in-person evaluations, but may not accept you if you are showing symptoms. Centers are also practicing and adopting social distancing measures, including keeping patients on their floors and staggering dining times.

However, it might be that you are asked to wait if you are a borderline patient who may recover with outpatient services alone. Medical resources are needed for COVID patients right now. You should not, though, hesitate to be evaluated, with proper precautions.

What Else Should I Do?

This is an isolating time. A lot of people are unable to spend time with friends or visit family until the crisis is well and truly over, which may not be for several months.

Make sure to reach out to others virtually when you cannot physically. Have somebody check on you regularly, by phone or video call (unless you are anxious about phone calls and would prefer a text).

Remember that this is a difficult time, and don’t judge yourself too harshly if you do have a relapse during this time. Isolation doesn’t contribute to recovery. Don’t be afraid to call your therapist at any time, or if they are not available, a mental health hotline. Be aware that needing extra help is likely and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. Keep in touch with your support group. Call family (if you get on with them) or friends more often than you normally will.

Practice good self care. Try to exercise even if you are unable to go outside. Enjoy the things that normally help you keep the cravings at bay, and if you’re unable to do so, talk to your therapist about alternative ideas.

You should not and must not give up on your recovery because of the pandemic; accept that things are going to be different and hard for a while and find a clinic that will continue or start your treatment virtually so it does not have to wait until things have returned to normal.

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