Going to Rehab During COVID-19
COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on everyone around the world and has forced many businesses and people into various forms of lockdown. However, the coronavirus hasn’t stopped addiction and, in many cases, has only worsened substance abuse as people struggle to find ways to cope. Research has shown that the coronavirus pandemic and its related social isolation and stress can increase the likelihood of substance abuse, addiction, and relapse.1 3
If you or someone you care about are dealing with addiction during COVID-19, know that many rehab centers are open and are committed to providing life-changing addiction treatment so that you (or your loved one) can start the path to sobriety or continue on your recovery journey.2 You can’t always control external events, but there are things you can do during these challenging times to take charge of your health and well-being, including seeking addiction treatment.
What Is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a very infectious virus (SARS-CoV-2), belonging to the family of coronaviruses, which are transmitted from animals to humans. Coronaviruses cause a range of illnesses that can result in mild respiratory symptoms to severe diseases. COVID-19 is said to be caused by a novel coronavirus because it has not been previously found in humans and can result in a range of mild to severe symptoms.3
Most people who catch the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory symptoms and be able to recover without the need for special treatment or hospitalization. Common symptoms include fever, dry cough, and fatigue. Less common symptoms include aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, headache, temporary inability to smell or taste, and skin rash or discoloration. However, some people may suffer from serious and life-threatening symptoms and even death, especially if they have underlying health issues such as heart disease, cancer, or chronic respiratory diseases. Some of the serious symptoms of COVID-19 include difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, and loss of speech or movement.4 overview and symptoms tab
COVID-19 and Addiction
COVID-19 has affected addiction in many ways. The effects of the pandemic on social and economic well-being have led to increased substance use as people attempt to deal with their feelings of stress and uncertainty in a new and unfamiliar situation. In some cases, people may feel that the only way to cope with the stress of the pandemic is to tune out by using drugs and alcohol. This can increase not only your risk of addiction but also your risk of severe illness.2
People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol may experience increased frustration and desperation as they try to find ways to obtain their fix. The closing of bars, restaurants, and other entertainment establishments has limited drinking opportunities, or at least forced people to drink at home, while lockdowns and enforced social distancing have made it more difficult for people to obtain drugs. According to a report from the World Health Organization, “the loss of social networks due to physical distancing measures combined with a constricted supply makes accessing street drugs during the pandemic especially dangerous.” The report explains that available supplies could be coming from untrusted or unknown sources and might therefore be “contaminated, lower in quality, or different in potency,” which can present many dangers to your health.5
The wide range of mental and emotional issues associated with COVID-19 can have a serious impact on addiction and your overall well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an infectious disease pandemic like COVID-19 can result in mental and physical health symptoms such as:6
- Sleep and appetite disturbances.
- Stress, worry, and anxiety.
- Problems with concentration or paying attention.
- Worsening of chronic health problems.
- Worsening of mental health problems.
All of the above-mentioned issues can affect addiction. According to an opinion article published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, the pandemic is causing people to deal with increased “anxiety and fear for their health and their jobs, and they are forced to live an unfamiliar lifestyle, deprived of relationships.” This, in turn, may push more people toward substance abuse, especially since many people are no longer looking to use substances in social or recreational settings, but rather as a way to cope in isolation.7
Has Addiction Impacted COVID-19?
Addiction has also affected COVID-19. Because using drugs or alcohol can impair your judgment and rational thought, you may be less likely to follow social distancing guidelines, remember to wear a mask, or follow other precautions, all of which can contribute to the spread of COVID-19.8
Furthermore, substance abuse can lead to changes in your respiratory and immune systems that can make you more vulnerable to COVID-19 and increase your risk of serious complications.1 3 things Here are some of the ways COVID-19 can be affected by substance abuse:2
- Long-term lung and respiratory damage caused by smoking weakens the lungs and leaves them more vulnerable to disease.
- Vaping has been shown to pose potential risks due to the damage it causes to the lungs and respiratory system, which can compromise your body’s ability to fight infections.
- People who abuse drugs, and especially those who inject them, more frequently have a compromised immune response and are more likely to suffer from lower immunity due to conditions such as HIV or liver disease.
- Opioids and methamphetamines can cause slow breathing when taken in high doses, which can lead to a compromised respiratory system and also increase the risk of complications from COVID-19.
- A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that people are more likely to contract COVID-19 if they have substance use disorders (SUDs), and especially opioid use disorders, followed by a tobacco use disorder. The results showed that out of the 73 million people studied, 7.5 million had been diagnosed with a SUD at some point in their lives. Among those 7.5 million, “12,000 were diagnosed with COVID-19, and about 1,880 had both an SUD and a COVID-19 diagnosis on record.” In addition, the rate of hospitalizations and deaths were higher in people with SUDs compared to people without SUDs.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction during the COVD-19 pandemic and don’t know where to turn, it’s important to stay connected with your treatment provider or physician, sponsor, or trusted family and friends. Even though you need to practice physical distancing, that doesn’t mean that you’re alone and that you can’t reach out for help.
Are Rehab Facilities Still Open During COVID-19?
Yes, rehab facilities are open and completely prepared to help people seeking addiction treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Addiction treatment centers are just as important as hospitals or other forms of emergency medical care. People are at a higher risk of addiction now more than ever, so treatment is critical for assisting those in need. Many addiction treatment centers have also implemented telehealth care and offer online meetings or virtual visits if that is appropriate for the person’s needs. Importantly, opioid treatment programs and syringe services programs remain open because they are seen as critical services.2
Is it Still Safe to Go to Rehab Despite COVID-19?
Yes, it is safe to go to rehab during the pandemic. As with other healthcare services, addiction treatment facilities have taken preventative measures and implemented specific testing protocols to ensure a safe and secure environment as you undergo rehabilitation. The American Society of Addiction Medicine has outlined numerous specific considerations that treatment facilities should take into account during the pandemic, including:10 all bullets
- Ensuring that staff members receive adequate training on current safety measures.
- Ensuring that staff members have access to personal protective equipment and other supplies to help control the spread of the virus.
- Reinforcing and monitoring infection control procedures with staff.
- Remaining up to date with current COVID-19 best practices and sharing them with local programs and clinicians.
- Connecting with local departments of health to support COVID-19 reporting and tracking.
- Maintaining regular communication with treatment partners to ensure that people in rehab can easily move through the continuum of care. Providers are encouraged to monitor which facilities are accepting patients and which have made special accommodations during the pandemic to ensure that people in treatment can receive speedy and easy access to needed services.
- Reviewing emergency preparedness measures and assessing them in case of emergency to ensure continued operation of the treatment facility.
- Implementing or expanding telehealth programs to ensure that people have ongoing access to treatment, including and especially those who are in quarantine or isolation.
Treatment at American Addiction Centers During COVID-19
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is one of the largest treatment providers in the nation. AAC operates facilities throughout the country, which is advantageous in light of travel restrictions. This means you will always be able to access treatment, no matter where you are located. We continue to operate all levels of care throughout the pandemic, including medical detox and inpatient care, with stringent COVID-19 protocols implemented to ensure patient safety at all times.
In addition, our treatment providers offer telehealth services through many of our facilities. Telehealth includes a variety of services that you might normally receive in person, such as individual psychiatry sessions, psychoeducational and therapy groups, case management, and family sessions. This helps to ensure that your treatment remains uninterrupted through the pandemic. Our telehealth services are offered through a HIPAA-compliant, confidential video conferencing service. For more information, please see our Telehealth website.
Are You Ready for Detox or Rehab?
If you have any questions or concerns about rehab during the pandemic, please do not hesitate to contact us. At American Addiction Centers, our mission is to provide quality, compassionate, and innovative care to anyone struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders (such as depression or anxiety). We want to help you or your loved one access treatment, and our commitment to providing help doesn’t stop at our facilities.
We also operate a confidential helpline that you can call 365 days a year, 24/7. No matter the time of day or night, you’ll be connected with one of our passionate and understanding Admissions Navigators, who will either help you start treatment at one of our centers or give you the resources you need to find treatment elsewhere. When you are ready to talk, we will be standing by. You can reach our helpline at 702-800-2682.
1. Michigan Medicine Department of Psychiatry. (2020). Addiction, substance use and recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). COVID-19 questions and answers: For people who use drugs or have substance use disorder.
3. World Health Organization. (2020). About COVID-19.
4. World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus.
5. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction. (2020). Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people who use substances: What we heard.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Coping with stress.
7. Zaami, S., Marinelli, E., & Varì, M. R. (2020). New trends of substance abuse during COVID-19 pandemic: An international perspective. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 700.
8. American Heart Association. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic brings new concerns about excessive drinking.
9. National Institutes of Health. (2020). Substance use disorders linked to COVID-19 susceptibility.
10. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2020). Ongoing management of the continuum of addiction care during COVID-19.
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