People who have a history or are currently dealing with addiction are especially vulnerable to relapse when faced with isolation, and this is especially worrisome given the intensity and duration of isolation associated with the COVID-19 crisis. With restrictions on travel and unusually stressful economic and social changes, people across the world are forced to find ways to pass time and to cope with stress. Substance use can be a maladaptive coping strategy that many people may fall back on during these difficult times.
A Forbes article noted that the sales of spirits spiked about 50% the week of March 21, a week when the onset of the pandemic began to overwhelm the United States.
“Nationally, tequila saw the biggest spike, up more than 75%, underscoring its status as the fastest growing spirits segment in the U.S,” said Forbes contributor, Joseph V Micallef. “It was followed closely by gin. Wine sales were up 66% and beer sales, in a reversal of the usual recession consumption pattern, lagged even though they still rose 42%.”
A study was conducted by the Pacific Neuroscience Institute (PNI) on the effects of stress and isolation on relapse. The results indicated that the effects of people who struggle with drug or alcohol use are at increased risk of relapse in isolation. “Preclinical studies show that animals kept in isolation are more likely to press a lever to receive a dose of drug or alcohol than animals able to interaction with other animals.”
The connection between isolation and an increased need for stress-relieving rewards is proven to be a chemical reaction. The PNI recommends that those who are struggling seek out regular social interactions with sober family members, friends or other people who can offer support. There are online platforms set-up to support individuals who are struggling and cannot receive in-person help during the pandemic.
AA and SMART Recovery are two recovery platforms that have online services including specialized group forums, peer support groups, meetings, and other events designed to create remote support systems for individuals in need.
Doctors and mental health specialists are also accessible throughout this time and available to ensure that everyone has the resources they need during this global health crisis. Personal health is of the utmost priority during this time and is something we could all focus more time on.
Reach out to any people or organizations who can help you get through this difficult time, and don’t forget to make your support available to others as well. We’ll all get through this together.