Why COVID-19 Caused a Rise in Relapse [and What to Do About It]
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted almost everyone in some way. Some people lost jobs. Others lost loved ones. Some even had to battle the COVID virus, themselves.
But for recovering addicts, COVID struck twice as hard. The addiction epidemic was already running rampant throughout the country, and a pandemic decided to show up, it’s almost as if the two teamed up to make matters worse for those in recovery.
Simply put, COVID-19 has created a larger addiction problem and has caused a rise in relapses over the last year.
Why the sudden spike? And what can be done about it now? If you’re a recovering addict, what can you do to protect yourself from relapsing, or get back on track if you’ve already slipped?
Why the Rise in Relapse
Since the pandemic began, there have been plenty of rules and restrictions put in place. The most widely used practices have included social distancing, quarantining/staying home, and wearing masks while out.
Unfortunately, all three practices can be difficult for those in recovery.
Isolation comes with plenty of problems for everyone. It has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and a weaker immune system. From a mental health standpoint, it can cause anxiety and depression.
For a recovering addict, feeling alone is even harder. It’s important to have a support system and people who can hold you accountable. When you feel you can’t see those people who help you or reach out when you’re triggered, it can make it far too easy to relapse. A report by NPR found an 18% increase in overdoses across the U.S. throughout the pandemic. People staying at home and abusing alcohol and other substances behind closed doors created a dangerous combination.
The Stress of Everything
It’s not just the isolation that has triggered a rise in relapse across the country. This pandemic has caused a lot of fear, uncertainty, and stress for everyone. Maybe you had just gotten a new job but were laid off because of the virus. Or maybe you haven’t been able to see older family members or high-risk friends. You might even be concerned about your financial situation.
Everyone has their own “triggers” with substance use. But a common trigger is stress. Many addicts use alcohol or other substances to deal with stress or cope with anxiety.
When you feel you don’t have any other outlet and the stress is getting to you, relapsing becomes a greater possibility.
What Can You Do About It?
The most important thing you can do to keep from relapsing is to be as proactive as possible. Some facilities across the country have seen fewer people looking for treatment and help throughout the pandemic. That doesn’t have to be the case. You don’t have to fall into that statistic.
Now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel in the pandemic. Thanks to the vaccine rollout, more things are opening up. That can serve as your own “light”, too.
If you’ve been struggling to stay sober, don’t be afraid to reach out to a treatment center as soon as possible. Even if you aren’t able to visit a facility or speak to an addiction specialist in person, it’s worth it to set up an appointment online.
Remember, you aren’t alone in what you might be feeling right now. Reminding yourself of that can be a tremendous help. The effects of this pandemic won’t last forever, and you can get back on track by seeking the support you need by any means possible.