Substance disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic

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People with substance use disorders face greater challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic

Melissa S. Fry, Director, Applied Research and Education Center & Associate Professor of Sociology, Indiana University, Melissa Cyders, Associate Professor of Psychology, IUPUI, and Kevin L. Ladd, Professor, Indiana University

The Conversation
<span class="caption">OxyContin is an opioid prescribed for pain relief. But some users become addicted. </span> <span class="attribution"><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/photo-of-five-pills-of-oxycocone-royalty-free-image/952065796?adppopup=true" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Getty Images / Marie Hickman">Getty Images / Marie Hickman</a></span>
OxyContin is an opioid prescribed for pain relief. But some users become addicted. Getty Images / Marie Hickman

The closures of businesses and states throughout the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been stressful, costly and challenging for many.

But the restrictions do not affect everyone equally. Particularly vulnerable are those with substance use disorders. With schedules disrupted, medical and psychological care curtailed and support networks shut down, the COVID-19 pandemic may jeopardize their recovery.

The COVID-19 pandemic comes on the coattails of the U.S. opioid epidemic. Between 1998 and 2018, about 450,000 people died from opioid overdose.

Progress was being made until COVID-19 appeared. Those of us who work in the field of substance use disorders became concerned for those in recovery as the pandemic spread and social distancing was put in place. Social connection and support are key parts of recovery. Without them, relapse is more likely. When people with opioid use disorder relapse, there’s more involved than a loss of sobriety, ruinous as that is. Often there is a loss of life.

Right now, our team, including the three of us – an associate professor of psychology at IUPUI, an associate professor of sociology at Indiana University Southeast and a psychology professor at Indiana University South Bend – are trying to understand how people with substance use disorders are managing their recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between March and April 2020, we spoke with 45 adults ages 28 to 73, half of whom have opioid use disorder. The other half have a combination of other substance and/or alcohol use disorders. Their stories reflect many challenges, but also some silver linings; they also suggest ways we can do better.

<span class="caption">EMTs bring in a patient to Elmhurst Hospital Trauma Center in New York City. As coronavirus cases rise, those with substance use disorders become even more vulnerable.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/s-bring-in-a-patient-to-elmhurst-hospital-trauma-center-in-news-photo/1211060945?adppopup=true" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Getty Images / NurPhoto">Getty Images / NurPhoto</a></span>
EMTs bring in a patient to Elmhurst Hospital Trauma Center in New York City. As coronavirus cases rise, those with substance use disorders become even more vulnerable. Getty Images / NurPhoto

Stress, cravings, hopelessness

The interviewees rated their chances of infection from COVID-19 at 63%. That’s more than double the rating from members of the general community (about 30%). The higher numbers may reflect reality; nearly two-thirds (63%) of our participants report preexisting conditions (such as chronic respiratory illnesses) in themselves or someone in their household. This places them at higher risk for COVID-related complications.

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https://news.yahoo.com/people-substance-disorders-face-greater-121556408.html

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