When Addiction Meets Social Distancing

Source: The Federalist.com

This is a “pandemic within a pandemic,” according to Tim Ryan, former heroin addict, star of A&E’s 2017 Dope Man special, and the founder of A Man In Recovery Foundation, which partners with Rehab.com.

Emily Jashinsky, TheFederalist: How are we seeing the impacts of quarantine on substance abuse? What have you noticed?
Tim Ryan: We had a pandemic with the opiates and mental health prior to COVID. So what we really have now is a pandemic within a pandemic. Relapses are through the roof, overdoses are through the roof, calls to the mental health hotline are up 800 percent.

Whether someone is newly sober — three months, six months, nine months, a year — they need purpose and connection; they need their fellowship. Now they can’t go to a 12-step based meeting or get their 90-day sobriety medallion. They may have lost a job, or they’re waiting on Personal Paycheck Program funds. People are full of anxiety and panic.

Have you experienced that the pandemic is pushing people towards addiction who haven’t struggled with it before?
Take the husband or wife or the twenty-some-year-old that would get home from work, maybe have a few drinks. Well, now they’re isolating at home, working through Zoom, starting to drink at three o’clock, starting to drink at one, starting to drink at ten in the morning. Alcohol sales are up 250 percent.

Also, look at the paramedics all the first responders, the hospital workers. These people are experiencing so much trauma and PTSD that a lot of these people are going to need help once this is all over. And a lot of our veterans—these things, the isolation, they can’t go to their weekly groups — it’s bringing up their PTSD — and there’s a high level of relapse not just with veterans but with people across the globe.

That’s why we’re partnered with Rehab.com. Anybody can go there, fill out a 30-second questionnaire, and instantly get at least three resources that you can call and get into treatment. People don’t know what’s available.

Are people having a harder time getting certain drugs?
No. There’s a ton of fentanyl, heroin, crystal methamphetamine, and prescription pills. You can also order it off the Internet’s dark web. Drug dealers will deliver to your house, but most people are “accidental” drug dealers. I can walk in a neighbor’s bathroom and they’ve got a bottle of Xanax or Oxycontin. A lot of people have it sitting right in their cabinet, and they don’t have it in a lock box.

How can people prevent it if they’re in quarantine and they feel this start to become an issue or they’re worried that will become an issue? What steps can they take?
The greatest advice I can give anyone is, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” So it’s okay to have that first thought or that second thought. But if you’re thinking of self-harming, or using, or drinking, pick up the phone and tell on yourself. Reach out. There’s online telehealth therapy, there’s people in recovery, there’s 800-numbers. If you need treatment, go to rehab.com and look for options. But ask for help. Put your hand up and ask for help.

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