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Dealing With the Impact of the Coronavirus on Addiction

As of this writing, there are 16.5 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide. However, even if you haven’t gotten the virus, you’ve still experienced the impact of it. Maybe you got laid off from your job or have felt the isolation associated with quarantine.

How have you been impacted by the coronavirus? This is a question that just about everyone has an answer for. This is because the coronavirus has caused problems in just about every person’s life. It has led to illness, death, job loss, and economic downfall world-wide.

On top of all that, the side effects of the pandemic, such as mental health consequences from isolation, have only worsened the situation for many of us.

Detroit is no exception. Here in Detroit, the impacts are obvious and numerous.

The pandemic has already resulted in four out of every 10 Detroiters temporarily or permanently losing their job.

Man wearing mask loading boxes into white van
There are also those of us who haven’t yet lost our jobs because we are deemed essential.

A lot of us here in Detroit are union, construction, transportation, and factory workers.

That’s why it’s so important to remember that essential workers aren’t just those in healthcare. Those of us that work in grocery stores and the transportation industry need recognition too.

For example, here in Detroit we have the headquarters for the United Auto Workers. Part of that union includes automobile workers. These workers were among those who couldn’t stay home during the shutdown and still had to work in close quarters with others.

Situations like this can cause anxiety and fear of the virus itself and all of the health implications that come with it. Anxiety can then lead to substance use. Since news of the virus spread, Michigan experienced a 36% increase in beer sales. This rate is higher than any other state except Ohio.

The virus currently shows no signs of stopping. In Detroit alone, there are about 119,000 confirmed cases, and 6,811 confirmed deaths.

What Does the Coronavirus Mean for Mental Health and Addiction?

The coronavirus has far-reaching implications for the hardworking people of Detroit. For many of us, it means job loss and/or isolation. With that comes increased mental health concerns, higher substance use rates, and relapse.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, the coronavirus alone is harming the mental health of about half of the United States population. There are increased amounts of fear and anxiety in general.

This fear and anxiety can easily lead to substance use. The virus and its mental health impacts can cause people to both start using substances or increase their previous use. This can also be difficult for those with a substance use disorder.

Common fears during this time include the fear of losing your job, which would also mean losing insurance and income, as well as contracting the virus itself.

Woman sitting at a table looking at her laptop
So, if you have experienced concerns with mental health or substance use during this time, you aren’t alone.

If you or a loved one has experienced mental health concerns during the pandemic, you should:

  • Get in touch with your healthcare provider.
  • Find virtual treatment and recovery programs.
  • Look into medically-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol or opioid use. MAT combines medication and therapies for treatment.
  • Continue taking medication as prescribed.
  • Continue therapy and treatment either in-person or virtually.
  • Learn healthier coping mechanisms through counseling/treatment, including exercise, meditation, and connecting with friends and family.

The impacts of the virus aren’t limited to those who have lost their jobs. There are also those who have to continue working in these conditions, which causes its own set of fears. It’s especially common for those who are still working to fear contracting the virus or losing their current job.

An example of this is when employees at a Detroit McDonald’s walked off the job as part of a strike for not receiving proper personal protective equipment (PPE) on the job. The strike was also part of current social movements.

This type of experience is common among essential workers. A survey conducted by the Shift Project found that, among food, delivery, grocery, and retail workers, 65% of employers have implemented more cleaning practices, 56% said that their workplace provided gloves, and only 19% reported that masks were provided by their employers.

As PPE shortages and fears surrounding the coronavirus continue to be a problem, it’s important to know how to take care of your wellbeing without turning to substances.

How to Cope During a Pandemic

There are many strategies to rely on to relieve stress and combat isolation without using substances.

Coping strategies to reduce stress during the pandemic include:

  • Being aware of what to do if you contract the coronavirus.
  • Know what support services are available, such as in-person or virtual therapy.
  • Take breaks from the news.
  • Take care of your physical wellbeing. This is where meditation, eating healthy, exercising, getting quality sleep, and avoiding substances come in.
  • Regulate your emotions. This will help clear your mind and handle situations and thoughts regarding the virus.
  • Schedule “me time.” Spend time doing your favorite activities.
  • Talk to people you trust.
  • Stay involved in your community and organizations you are a part of virtually.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the coronavirus disease pandemic’s impact on mental health?

The most common mental health implications of the coronavirus are increased stress, depression, anxiety, and increased drug or alcohol use. This is due to things such as isolation and job loss.

What can I do to feel better if I’m feeling anxious and scared about COVID-19?

In order to feel less anxious about COVID-19, it’s important to take breaks from the news and maintain virtual connections with your friends, family, and organizations you are a part of.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 and how long does it take for them to appear?

It takes anywhere from two to 14 days for COVID-19 symptoms to show up. Some of the symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat, headache, losing a sense of taste or smell, congestion, runny nose, nausea, and vomiting.

Here at Skywood, we focus on treating co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. If you or a loved one has had their mental health or recovery impacted by the coronavirus, we’re here to help. Call us to learn more or schedule an appointment at 269.280.4673.