12-Step Recovery

Post-Pandemic Substance Abuse: How to Seek Help

The Great Pandemic. Most of us survived it. But many lost loved ones along the way or had to watch those around them suffer. This disease was not one caused by germs, bacteria, or viruses. Instead, it came in the form of addiction.

With the onslaught of COVID-19, substance abuse has become more prevalent. People often use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate in order to cope with stress, and it is not uncommon to see an increase in misuse after wars, disasters or terror events.  Our world was rocked in a fundamental way by COVID-19.  Isolation, loss of income, and complete uncertainty was a sure catalyst for people to either begin using drugs and alcohol or increase their use. 

Furthermore, substance use can lead to immune system, respiratory, and pulmonary changes and may increase susceptibility to COVID-19 as well as complications. It can increase risk for the development of symptoms, multiple complications related to the virus, and accelerate the progression of chronic illness.

Fortunately, this “new epidemic” has started a conversation about addiction. Many companies are implementing programs to deal with substance abuse, and support groups and counselling have taken to the digital landscape in the form of online meetings and web-based forums.

If you are struggling to cope with post-pandemic substance misuse, there are a few proactive steps you can take.

Reach out

Social isolation and stress have increased susceptibility to substance misuse, addiction, and relapse. This is especially true in places where particularly hard lockdowns were enforced, such as Hong Kong. It is vitally important to maintain a sense of connection with others. Identify one, two or three supportive people to contact regularly via phone or text. Reaching out to family and friends may sound cliche, but it can be a huge comfort to both yourself and them. 

Remote resources are available to help at any time.

A number of remote resources are available to help assist individuals and loved ones. Although COVID-19-related restrictions make it difficult for some people to seek help, online resources have some surprising benefits. Some may find it easier to seek treatment in the familiarity of their own space, using technology that they are already familiar with. Online counselling and outpatient therapy offer a myriad of treatments including Motivational Interviewing (MI), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), 12-step Facilitation Therapy, Person-Centred Therapy and Wellness Coaching.

Prevent Relapse

It is said that relapse begins weeks before a person actually uses the substance. They begin failing to cope with their emotions in a constructive manner, ultimately leading them down a path of actively using.  It is important to check thoughts and feelings, and monitor emotions through daily reflection. A negative mindset can lead to negative behaviour.

Until society can address these epidemic levels of stress, we will continue to see increased use of various substances in order to deal with both the mental and physical pain it causes. It is important for us to remember that help is available as long as we are willing to seek it. 

Image credit: Lukáš Dlutko via Pexels

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