Argyle, Texas, May 7, 2020—Headlines scream continuously about COVID-19 – the number of cases, unemployment rates, vaccine progress, etc. Included in those headlines are stories focusing on the vulnerable populations affected by COVID-19. Among those in that population are people with a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). These individuals and their families, friends, colleagues and neighbors are a significant part of your readership/viewership/listeners; addiction now impacts 1 in 3 households in America, claims a life every four minutes, costs our country $442 billion each year, and is stealing a generation.¹
The impact of COVID-19 on individuals with a SUD can be seen in several different ways. One is directly on their health. Someone with SUD may have underlying health issues associated to their addiction that can make them especially susceptible to infection by the virus that causes COVID-19 and associated complications. Another is that due to the stigma that persistently follows individuals with SUD, those with the disease who develop COVID-19 may find it harder to get care. And those in recovery will also face unique challenges due to social distancing measures. The social isolation, stress and anxiety that many of us are feeling during this pandemic are risk factors for relapse.²
National statistics and facts about the impact of COVID-19 on those with a Substance Use Disorder:
- At least 2 million persons in the United States have OUD [opioid use disorder], and more than 10 million misuse opioids; these individuals may be at increased risk for the most adverse consequences of COVID-19.²
- In 2018, an estimated 21.2 million people aged 12 or older needed substance use treatment. This number translates to about 1 in 13 people who needed treatment.³ It is vital to fight the stigma that is largely based on the erroneous but persistent belief—widespread even among health care workers—that addiction is the result of weak character and poor choices, whereas science has clearly shown it to be a disorder arising from alterations in brain circuitry.²
- Social support is crucial for persons trying to recover from SUD, whereas social isolation is a risk factor for relapse. Even though the social distancing measures being implemented nationwide are important for reducing disease transmission, they may be especially difficult for persons in recovery because they limit access to meetings of peer-support groups or other sources of social connection.² Relapse rates for drug use are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses. If people stop following their medical treatment plan, they are likely to relapse.⁴
“During this unprecedented season of the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen that more and more people are reaching out for help with their addiction and mental health struggles,” says Sam Slaton MEd, LPC-S MBA, MHSM, Chief Operating Officer at Santé Center for Healing. “The disease of addiction will not slow down and will always be something that we must diligently fight while keeping the health, safety, and long-term recovery of this vulnerable population our highest priority.”
To learn more about this or other SUD topics, Sam Slaton is available for additional interviews and follow-up.