DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse reveals how the pandemic is gravely affecting people who are fighting to recover from drug and alcohol addiction.
In an online video, Allen, who is a recovering alcoholic, shares his road to recovery. For his privacy, NewsNation is only revealing his first name.
“Most of the time when a person is an alcoholic, they drink to survive, and so I was an alcoholic waiting to take the first drink at 10-years-old,” stated Allen.
Allen lost his wife after they both contracted COVID-19.
“On the morning of June 13th, she got up and told me she had to go to the bathroom. And she died in my arms in the bathroom of the camper and I didn’t know what to do,” he said.
He said after her death, he turned over a new leaf and that lead him to Cornbread Hustle founded by Cheri Garcia.
Her program is a staffing agency for second chances, helping people coming out of prison or recovering from drug or alcohol addiction find meaningful employment.
“I myself have struggled with drug and alcohol addiction over 10 years — 13 years to be exact. I was a meth addict and just two years ago I was able to get into recovery for alcoholism,” said Garcia.
She says the pandemic is effecting her employees and even her own efforts at maintaining sobriety.
“I even personally can attest to how difficult it is because it feels like everything is crashing down around us. We are so used to being the chaos in our own lives. And when there’s chaos all around us, then it really starts to become triggering,” said Garcia.
Dr. Nora Volkow is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The NIDA is the United States’ research institute focused on studying the causes, consequences, and solutions for drug addiction.
“The pandemic is affecting all of us, but I think it’s particularly hard for people that are struggling with substance abuse disorders. Because you actually have a stronger urge to take a drug under a situation that is hard to deal with now it’s much harder,” said Dr. Volkow.
In a study recently published by the NIDA, researchers found that people with substance use disorders are more likely than those without to develop COVID-19.
They also discovered the same people are more susceptible to complications from the virus, specifically those with opioid use disorder, followed by tobacco use disorder.
Dr. Volkow says their research also reveals an increase in depression, anxiety, drug use, and relapse during the pandemic linked to social distancing.
“If you are isolated, that desire for drugs is much more intense, and actually if you are at the stage of recovery where you’re starting to integrate yourself back into society that stress of isolation — stress from the uncertainties are going to lead you to intensify the desire to go back to drugs,” said Dr. Volkow.
The NIDA director says recovering addicts must find activities and moments that give them a sense of joy not related to drugs and good for their overall wellbeing.
“It may be going out, going for a walk or a run, calling someone, or Zooming someone. Activities that provide pleasure,” explained Dr. Volkow.
She says even helping others can promote a positive mental state and could help people maintain sobriety for the long haul.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, the NIDA offers a national helpline with 24-hour free and confidential referrals and information about mental disorders, substance use disorders, prevention, treatment, and recovery in English and Spanish. Call 800-662-help (4357) or 800-487-4889.