The coronavirus pandemic and concerns over the spread of the virus have prompted some people to question whether seeking treatment for substance use disorders right now is a sensible choice. It’s a reasonable concern given the numbers of people infected nationwide, but it also becomes an opportunity to look at the facts of the situation and educate yourself on what’s been done to ensure an all-important treatment resource remains available and ready for anyone who needs it. Today, let’s talk about 9 reasons you shouldn’t delay starting treatment for a substance use disorder right now.
The perceived risk of becoming infected with coronavirus during treatment for substance use disorders is affecting some people’s decision to start a program. Delaying treatment indefinitely has its own risks though, including increased health risks, dangerous withdrawal symptoms if a substance is no longer available, the increased risk of becoming infected through sharing drugs and drug paraphernalia, and mental health risks caused by loss of income, uncertainty over the future, and isolation. Like any reputable healthcare facility, administrators and treatment personnel have taken steps to minimize the risk of becoming infected in a residential program and ensure patients with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders continue to have access to the services they need.
1. There is no scheduled end to the pandemic.
By now, you’re familiar with the terms “first wave” and “second wave,” but there is no way to forecast when the pandemic will end. Also, while it may appear under control in your area for the moment, an outbreak is possible as businesses and schools reopen and people resume traveling locally and out-of-state. Delaying treatment for a substance use disorder due to the pandemic would mean delaying it indefinitely, even until next year.
2. Your health risks can increase over time.
Longer sustained use of substances can lead to a higher risk of experiencing an assortment of physical symptoms. Opiate use, for example, can lead to seizures, respiratory depression, and increased risks for cardiovascular complications and well as mental health issues ranging from depression and anxiety to mood swings and psychosis. Continuing to use drugs or alcohol during the pandemic can be enough to cause permanent harm to your body as well as threaten your life.
3. Appropriate actions were taken to keep treatment facilities safe.
In the period of time since the pandemic began, healthcare facilities have taken steps to reduce the risk of treating patients. As more information about the spread of coronavirus has become available, healthcare administrators and providers are implementing new strategies into their facilities and programs to allow patients to receive the services they need while minimizing the risk of exposure to coronavirus. Any person seeking treatment from a facility is entitled to know what measures have been taken to reduce the risk of spread before they begin a program.
4. Your limited access to substances could lead to forced withdrawal.
While alcohol and other substances may remain readily available, illegal substances and some prescription medications may become more difficult to obtain over time. The change in access to these substances could lead to withdrawal symptoms between uses or severe withdrawal once the substance is no longer available. Experiencing the withdrawal symptoms of opiates, for example, could begin with restlessness and irritability and grow into tremors, nausea, and diarrhea and even become deadly if withdrawal is not supervised by medical professionals.
5. Certain drugs can increase your risk of becoming infected.
Risk tied to specific drug use can increase in several ways. One risk comes from sharing drugs and drug paraphernalia, such use of marijuana or heroin, where you and another person (potentially infected) are coming in contact with the same surfaces. Another risk can be seen in substances that lower immunity, including cocaine and meth. A third risk to recognize is the change in behaviors that can come from being under the influence of a substance, such as neglecting safety practices that are meant to protect you from being exposed to the virus.
6. Your mental health may be more profoundly affected over time.
The massive change in routine, loss of social connections, uncertainty over jobs and the future can have an impact on your mental health over time. More episodes of depression and anxiety in response to the loss of control of your life can lead you to more frequent use of substances to cope or increasing the amount you use to get the same high. If you began the pandemic with a known mental health condition, such as depression, and have not found help in treating it, it certainly can become more problematic with ongoing substance use.
7. Severe cases of substance use disorders are life-threatening.
There is a difference between the risks of marijuana use and heroin use. While both are potentially addictive, heroin use can lead to serious medical side effects. These side effects may include heart problems, blood clots, liver disease, and even death. Recognizing the substance you’re using now has the risk of death associated with it is a strong validation of the need for treatment right away.
8. You could develop a dependence on additional substances.
As the pandemic may cut off the supply of one substance, the development of new substance use disorder can become an issue. Using whatever drug is available doesn’t mean the previous drug is no longer a problem. If the access to the previous one is restored, a person could find themselves using both drugs for different reasons on the same day.
9. Isolation can threaten even well-sustained recovery efforts.
One of the key elements of sobriety is the ongoing support of friends, family, and fellow people in recovery. Unfortunately, the pandemic has altered the ability to gather in person and provide support to one another, and the impact on someone who’s living alone or living without adequate support can be devastating. If you’re experiencing this kind of isolation and its affecting your recovery, it’s imperative to find support through any means.
Origins Recovery Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1019.