One thing that this Coronavirus pandemic has taught humanity so far, or better said, reminded all of us once again, is that there’s no certainty in this world. All of a sudden, the whole world has to take a time out, and people all over the world have to adjust to new restrictive life circumstances that this unknown yet dangerous health threat has imposed upon us.
Ever since COVID-19 has become a global issue that we all have to battle against, there has been some general precautionary measures people have had to start abiding by to stop the spread of this potentially deadly respiratory virus. Some of these restrictive measures are social distancing, avoiding any physical contact with others, and complete isolation. The media and experts have focused mainly on the symptoms and harmful effects this highly infectious and fast-spreading virus may have on physical health. However, there has been a minimal discussion on how this whole atmosphere of constant fear for health combined with isolation may affect our mental health.
The good news is that most people are resilient in disastrous situations like this. They quickly find innovative ways to cope with new, unfavorable circumstances that they found themselves in. However, there are vulnerable groups of people, like those with mental health or drug addiction issues, that find this new situation unbearable and extremely difficult to cope with.
Therefore we decided to look into how the quarantine and social distancing affect these vulnerable groups. We will also find ways to help people with mental problems and patients going through the drug addiction recovery process to stay on track and get through these ominous times unharmed. This guide may be invaluable to people suffering from both mental issues and substance abuse, i.e., co-occurring disorders.
We compiled this guide to offer you some effective advice and help you cope with the COVID-19 quarantine, whether you are suffering from mental health issues or this situation has hindered your path to drug addiction recovery. We will provide you with some useful information and resources. Numerous institutions that tackle mental health and addiction issues are prepared to help you overcome all the challenges during the coronavirus outbreak.
What are the Negative Effects of Coronavirus Lockdown on Our Mental Health?
There are two intimidating features of the COVID-19 virus that make people live in constant fear for their health. First of all, this infectious disease is something we had never seen before until several months ago, and we still haven’t found the most efficient weapon to fight this invisible enemy. Therefore, some of the information that medical experts share with the public on a daily basis sometimes sounds contradictory because they are still learning about this virus as they go along. Second, Coronavirus is a fast-spreading and highly unpredictable threat that can seriously harm the lungs and endanger a patient’s life in a matter of hours. In addition to the fear of the unknown, many of us are dealing with elevated stress and anxiety levels as we deal with this dangerous threat in isolation. This isolation and a feeling of complete helplessness severely affect people with existing mental and addiction problems, like stress and anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, suicidal tendencies, various substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, and so on.
All of these people are in need of a constant support system as they struggle with their demons. The absence of physical interaction with their loved ones or their support group may damage their fragile confidence leading to the deterioration of their condition and a potential relapse. Here, we will provide you with some resources and information you can use to prevent this tragic scenario from happening. You will also find some stress management tips you can use at home to remain calm and cope with this COVID-19 situation.
Organizations That Offer Information and Help Related to the Coronavirus Crisis
Numerous national institutions and organizations have devised elaborate instructions and offered an array of resources and helplines for people who are struggling with mental problems during the COVID-19 outbreak. Here is a shortlist of helpful resources and information you can find online:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have dedicated entire web pages containing some general tips for people who are feeling overwhelmed with the entire situation related to quarantine and social distancing. Apart from providing helplines, they are also directing those who need help to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Here, you can find instructions on preparing for disasters and providing an effective response.
In addition to the Disaster Distress Helpline, SAMHSA has devised a mobile app geared toward behavioral health responders who play an essential role in dealing with the harmful effects of disasters on people, especially vulnerable social groups. This mobile app contains many tools, like healthcare materials, helpful phone numbers, and treatment centers’ locations responders need to help people go through this challenging period in their lives.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness has taken a proactive role in helping people who are struggling with mental conditions go through these stressful times. When you visit their site, you will find a national helpline and also a comprehensive list of resources and information on how to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. You will also come across a warm and encouraging message that invokes much-needed solidarity and a sense of togetherness.
- Mental Health America is one of the organizations that has devised an elaborate plan of support and guidance during the Coronavirus outbreak. When you land on their homepage, you will find an array of different helpful resources that you can use. These resources are divided into categories. So, if you are looking for support for people suffering from drug addiction, for example, all you have to do is click on that field to access numerous articles and other types of useful information about coping with coronavirus outbreak.
These are all significant online resources and helplines you can turn to if you need help with overcoming elevated stress and anxiety during the lockdown, or if you have other mental health issues that are worsening due to the isolation and social distancing.
We will focus now on those of you who are fighting drug addiction in the middle of the COVID-19 epidemic, see what the challenges you have to face every day are, and try to give you much-needed advice and support to help you cope.
Why Drug Addicts Are Considered High-Risk
One of the first things that we learned about the new COVID-19 respiratory virus is that it may be deadly for people suffering from underlying conditions that weaken their pulmonary and immune systems, like pulmonary or cardiac diseases. According to the statistics based on the Chinese experience and data, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) showed the mortality rate among patients with underlying conditions, like chronic pulmonary disease, was 6.3%, as opposed to 2.3% in general.
We hope that now you understand why people with opioid addiction are at greater risk of dying from this infectious disease. Simply put, opioid users have already put their lungs at risk through excessive substance abuse. This drug abuse slows down metabolism causing addicts to breathe less, so if they got the infection, they would have limited chances to fight this aggressive respiratory virus.
Apart from this, we must bear in mind that there is a large number of drug addicts among prisoners and the homeless population who are at a higher risk of catching this virus due to unfavorable living conditions in homeless shelters and detention centers. People in these circumstances cannot maintain physical distance from others, and they certainly cannot wash their hands whenever they like.
Another issue that NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow pointed out in one of her interviews is the social stigma that targets homeless drug addicts, making it even harder for them to seek medical help in this COVID-19 situation. Dr. Volkow emphasized that now, when we are all in danger, we need to make an effort to reduce stigma by showing a higher level of tolerance and solidarity with this vulnerable social group.
We cannot agree more with the eminent doctor, and this increased level of tolerance, solidarity, and compassion is something we would like to see even long after this pandemic ends. With that said, let’s see how we can spread this feeling of togetherness and help people stay on track with their drug addiction recovery. Here is a short list of tips and tricks you can use in quarantine to fight the sense of isolation and helplessness that may put you at an increased risk of relapse.
1. Build a Daily Routine and Stick to It
Another issue that we all have to cope with in this COVID-19 lockdown is boredom. Social distancing and self-isolation have deprived us of all the things we loved doing, like going to the gym or seeing our friends for coffee or lunch.
This abrupt interference with daily routine may be especially hard for those of you who are fighting drug addiction. A strictly set schedule of daily activities fills up the day and leaves no room for thinking about old behaviors, but the shelter in place measures have disrupted the ability to do this.
The fact that you cannot go to a meeting at a treatment facility or go for a swim three times a week like you used to doesn’t mean that you can’t build a routine that will be effective and keep your mind on the right track while you stay safe at home. For example, you can take a long walk in the morning, then have breakfast and prepare lunch and dinner before you start a video chat with your support group or sponsor. In the evening, read a book or watch a movie. You can do all of these things or make some other plans for daily activities. The essential thing is to keep yourself busy and stick to this routine until things go back to normal.
2. Stay in Touch with the People you Love
Feeling isolated may be one of the most dangerous traps for those who are on their way to addiction recovery during the COVID-19 crisis. We know how essential constant love and support from your loved ones is in this battle you are fighting with your addiction, and we understand how challenging it must be to cope with the COVID-19 lockdown alone. But you can always have a Zoom meeting or Facetime with your nearest and dearest to get all the love and encouragement you need to go through the day sober.
Besides, numerous treatment programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, have adjusted to these new circumstances by holding virtual recovery meetings where you can stay in touch with your recovery community and feel less isolated in this situation. These organizations have set online groups via video chats so that you can still share your experiences with those who fully understand your struggle because they are fighting similar battles.
Organizations like Partnership for Drug-Free Kids offer substantial support to the families and friends of teenagers fighting drug addiction and have organized online meetings and support via text messages for all who need it. The essential thing to know is that you don’t have to cope with both COVID-19 and your drug recovery alone. We are all in this together, even though we are apart.
3. Pick Up A New Interest
If you always wanted to take up yoga or learn how to cook, the quarantine provided you all the time in the world to make this happen. Now you have the opportunity to start doing things you have wanted to do for a long time but have never had the time for. This will fill you with a sense of accomplishment, and it will also get your mind off tempting thoughts of using.
Keeping a pet may be helpful because you will be responsible for their wellbeing, and you’ll also have a much-needed friend in isolation. The whole point with this tip is to build a positive mindset about the “confined” life you have to lead temporarily. The catch is to turn this negative feeling that the COVID-19 lockdown has deprived you of many things you enjoyed doing into a sense of gratitude for all the free time you can now dedicate to learning or doing new things you are interested in.
4. Taking Care of Yourself is a Priority
All this advice about building a fixed routine and incorporating new activities sounds fine until that day when you cannot get out of bed. Try to be gentle to yourself on these days when all the issues that are haunting you creep into your mind and won’t leave you alone. When you start feeling overwhelmed, and your anxiety levels hit the roof, try some stress management techniques that will calm you down and remind you why it is crucial to stay on track with your addiction recovery.
The simplest way to reduce stress and avoid an anxiety attack is to take deep breaths, stretch, go for a short walk, or meditate for some time. Taking long, relaxing baths may also be helpful, as well as listening to some soothing instrumental music.
Either way, if you have bad days, don’t worry. We all have them in these stressful and challenging times. If you want to stay in bed the whole day, do it. Remember that tomorrow is a new day, and you will feel better.
5. Always Bear in Mind Your Story
We stated in the beginning that this sudden and dangerous coronavirus outbreak made us all put our “normal” lives on standby and abide by rather restrictive measures for a while. We all struggle with new circumstances, like homeschooling, working from home, and the absence of any social or physical contact with friends or family. We can only imagine how hard it is for people whose drug addiction recovery treatment was interrupted so abruptly. However, you need to know that this situation with COVID-19 is temporary and that this, too, shall pass.
When you slip into the temptation of using drugs again, get up, take a short walk, and remind yourself of your addiction story. Focus on the day you started this journey and relentless battle to get your life back. Remind yourself of all the energy and effort invested in your drug recovery treatment, and then ask yourself if you are ready to throw this enormous achievement away because of a moment of weakness?
We are sure that the answer will be “no.” Once you have your recovery story cemented in your mind, you will never let temptations prevail.
We hope we have answered all the burning questions about coping with the coronavirus lockdown during drug addiction recovery. We found several institutions and organizations that offer extensive resources and information you can use when you need help.
We pointed out that this challenging time requires us to be more tolerant and show solidarity, especially to vulnerable social groups. In the end, we offered you some tips on how to go through this difficult situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and stay persistent on your road to recovery.