Behavioral Health

Substance Abuse Assistance During Isolation

Dr. Dent helps us better understand mental health, substance abuse, and how you can help yourself and others.

Nov. 11, 2020 5   min read

Substance abuse help during covid

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the mental health of many Americans and led to increases in stress and anxiety. The hardships related to COVID are most prevalent in people who suffer from substance abuse, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study shows that 13% of people with symptoms of mental health issues admitted to increasing substance use as a way to cope with the stress of the pandemic. Additional data confirms that drug overdoses have spiked by about 18% since the start of the pandemic. 

Understanding the toll that stress and anxiety can take on mental health is an important step in substance abuse prevention and recovery—and a reason why Dr. Richard Dent, the medical director of chemical dependency services at Rochester Regional Health, is trying to bring attention to substance abuse and mental health issues. Dr. Dent helps us better understand mental health, chemical dependency, and how you can help yourself and others.

Why do people with substance abuse issues struggle during a pandemic?

Among the most impactful factors of recovery are structure and accountability. During a time of change and uncertainty, a lot of these factors are non-existent. When people are struggling with addiction, they are fighting the normalcy of substance use that their body has adapted to. Because of this, external accountability is essential to keep them on track to recovery.

The pandemic has led to a lot of social isolation. Missing out on connections with recovery peers and any kind of social community leaves room for addictive tendencies to take over. While the lack of human connection can be difficult for all people, those battling addiction may find themselves with an urge to use again.

What can people with substance addictions do to stay healthy?

At a time when resources may be lessened, here are a few useful tips for those struggling or in recovery:

  • Stay connected with others. It’s essential to avoid isolating yourself from social activities. Keep in touch with family, friends, and support people.
  • Uphold daily structure. Create a routine for each day and stick to it. Waking up at the same time each day, having scheduled meal times, and exercising every day are helpful ways to stay on track.
  • Find a support person. Reach out to a trusted, sober support person that can help with accountability. Meeting with them routinely can help ensure structure within your recovery process.

In the absence of in-person support groups, it’s extremely important to reach out for help. Reaching out by phone or through virtual communication can help to avoid feelings of isolation.

How can family members help?

Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important for family members to keep in touch with their loved ones who struggle with addiction. They can be supportive of them in various ways:

  • Reach out frequently. Check-in with your loved ones and ask them how they’re doing. Enhance your connection to them and ensure your support. 
  • Remain nonjudgmental. It’s more important than ever to avoid judgment when talking with someone struggling with substance abuse. Every person is facing unique hardships during COVID-19, so remember to be understanding.
  • Be aware of their mental health. Keep in mind any other mental health issues your loved one may be battling. They may also be struggling with PTSD, anxiety, depressions, or more.

What else should people know?

When someone is struggling with addiction, neurobiological changes occur in their brain that drives desires and decisions. It’s important to remember that the root of the problem isn’t stubbornness or poor decision-making.

Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, feelings of isolation and stress are also triggering the biochemical changes that make it more difficult to avoid substance abuse. At all times, but now more than ever, remaining nonjudgmental and staying connected with those struggling with addiction is extremely important.

However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot challenge the behaviors of your loved one. Encourage them to get out and exercise, do various activities, and hold them accountable for their actions. Being understanding and pushing them to stay on track will help them move forward in their recovery. The balance between being empathetic and challenging someone to recover can be difficult to find. Being there for someone who is struggling with addiction can be hard at times, but reaching out for professional help can ensure a source of advice and expertise when it comes to recovery.

Call (585) 723-7366 to speak with a chemical dependency specialist

How does RRH help?

All of Rochester Regional Health’s chemical dependency programs are completely open to either in-person visits or telemedicine visits. Many people don’t have the resources to seek medical attention over the phone, so we continue to offer services at our locations.

When visiting our locations, we have decreased barriers of entry so patients can avoid callbacks, voicemails, and other circumstances that prolong their wait for care. We have a direct number that patients can call to reach a therapist (723-SAFE).

An important factor in treated substance abuse victims is medication-assisted treatment. In some cases, people need certain medications to help with cravings. We ensure that people in need can be treated within 24 hours and given access to these medications. Patients can reach out for access to these medications remotely, and if appropriate, will be treated with them at the most convenient location for the patient.

Does cold weather impact the way your programs are run?

This year, cold and flu symptoms could create a barrier for some patients. At every medical office, patients are screened for symptoms of COVID-19, and some of these symptoms overlap with cold and flu. This could lead to the issue of people being turned away from in-person care when they’re in need, but we have a solution in place.

Rochester Regional Health has a robust telemedicine system that allows all mental health and chemical dependency patients access to our care providers remotely. With a phone, patients can access virtual group offerings and sessions with care providers such as support coaches and therapists.

NEXT STEPS Contact our Behavioral Health Crisis Center

Rochester Regional Health meets and accepts every individual wherever they are in their path of recovery. Call (585) 368-3950 to contact our Behavioral Health Access and Crisis Center.

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Richard Scott Dent , MD
Family Medicine
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Rochester Behavioral Health Network
490 East Ridge Road
Rochester, New York 14621
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