Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

We all know by now that the direct effects of COVID-19 on the world have been downright devastating. What’s often not discussed, however, is the effect that it’s had on addiction and the opioid crisis. 

There’s been a 38.4% increase in fentanyl overdoses between the twelve-month period leading up to April of 2019 and the 12 month period leading up to May 2020. These are the most current stats we could get are hands-on, and these numbers are likely to be significantly higher for 2021. 

During this same period, ten of the western United States reported over a 98 percent increase in synthetic opioid-involved deaths, and 37 out of the 38 U.S. jurisdictions with available data reported overall increases in synthetic opioid-involved overdose deaths. Other reports hover around the 50% and higher mark for increases in overdose-related suicides before shelter in place orders and after. 

Canada is also reporting record numbers of opioid-related deaths and hospitalizations during this time. Even the UN is beginning to respond to the opioid crisis, as the numbers of overdoses across the globe are now quite staggering. 

In April of 2020, National Geographic published an article on the topic entitled, “The pandemic may fuel the next wave of the opioid crisis.” The article cites a 900 percent increase in calls to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services disaster distress helpline. 

While we can’t be 100% certain that pandemic-related causes are to blame, these increases in numbers are shockingly high. Lockdowns and the disruption of daily life have certainly had an impact on people, and addicts tend to be particularly vulnerable to this. 

The correlation between the two seems undeniable, but this is also (kind of) beside the point as there’s not much we can do to change the state of the pandemic and the measures being taken to try and stop its spread. Having said that, opioid-related overdose deaths and hospitalizations are drastically rising, and we really need to address it. 

So, what can addicts do to help ensure they don’t fall into the death trap that’s perhaps been triggered by all the pandemic-induced chaos and isolation? Here are some tips to help you get through:

Online meetings. Regardless of whether or not you stay sober through some type of program like AA, NA, or another, now might be the time to start getting more involved than ever. AA and NA are DEFINITELY online and there are tons of meetings around the world and around the clock, and there are bound to be online meetings for other recovery programs like SMART as well. A quick Google search should produce some results. Many people STILL don’t have access to in-person meetings right now, or they just don’t feel comfortable attending them. Nevertheless, you can stay connected online, and this is more important for addicts right now than ever, particularly if you’re prone to isolating which many of us are. Just do it. 

Pick up the phone and call another addict. We say this a lot because, well, it works. Chances are, you’re not the only one who feels confused and alone right now. There are other addicts in the same boat, and you’d probably be surprised how happy they’d be to hear from you. Not only can they be a source of support for you, but you can be the same for them. It feels good to get out of our own heads sometimes and help a fellow in need. It also feels comforting to hear that there are others out there who feel the same as you do and to realize that you WILL get through this. This situation is not forever, but right now, it certainly feels like it for many people. 

Don’t give up on your daily fitness routine. Many people stopped doing things like going outside and exercising because of all the restrictions in place. As these restrictions are largely beginning to ease, it might be a good idea to start back up again. Even if gyms are still closed and you’re stuck at home, try online yoga and fitness classes, stationary bikes, or just hit the floor yourself and do some crunches and burpees. Don’t ever discount the power of a good workout to lift your spirits and shift your perspective, particularly if you’re feeling like you’ve lost hope. It’s the BEST natural high you’ll ever get — it raises serotonin levels and boosts dopamine without drugs or alcohol and often keeps you feeling good into the next day. Sometimes, a little shift in perspective is all we need.

Meditate. Speaking of shifting your perspective, meditation is one of the best ways to do this! Ruminating on stressful situations is an easy place for us to go, as addicts (monkey mind, anyone?). But, studies show that mindful attention (such as through meditation) gives us the space to decenter and disengage our senses from imagined situations in order to stay present and calm.  And while yes, there IS actually a global pandemic happening (we know this isn’t imagined), the vast majority of the time, all of our needs are being met at any given moment. So, provided you have food, shelter, maybe some Netflix or a good book, and you’re currently healthy, then you’re okay. Meditation helps clear out the mind clutter and recognize that you’re fine here and now, and the present moment is a great place to hang out. 

You’re not alone…

Finally, please just remember that you’re not alone. We’re all in this together, so you have absolutely no reason to ever feel completely alone. You can always pick up the phone and call a friend or jump into an online meeting. Chances are, you’ll be in the company of quite a few people who’ve had thoughts similar to your own. Talk about them. 

Kembali Recovery Center can Help

While our schedule might be currently up in the air due to restrictions, we’re always here for a call. If you or someone you know and love is struggling with addiction right now, please contact us right away. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and provide any information that we can. Please don’t do this alone. 

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