The COVID-19 pandemic has changed healthcare in countless ways since early 2020, and the addiction treatment industry is no different. Treatment for addiction during COVID-19 is evolving as fast as it can.
If you’re living with substance use disorder (SUD), you may be weighing the benefits of treatment against the risks of exposing yourself to the virus right now.
It’s normal to be cautious during a global pandemic. At the same time, your SUD doesn’t stop just because the world went into quarantine.
Delaying treatment for addiction can be dangerous to your physical and mental health at best. Addiction treatment is medically necessary for most people living with SUD, if not all.
Avoiding treatment when you need it can lead to relapse, even if you try to detox and recover at home. In fact, without treatment, 90% of people with SUD will experience a relapse in the next year.
Those who operate and run rehab programs are listening to your concerns about COVID-19 and taking action to ensure no one has to neglect their treatment during the pandemic. This year, many treatment centers have overhauled their programs to build accessible and safe options during the pandemic.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a contagious virus that was first found in China and has been affecting the world globally since early 2020. It causes respiratory problems, vascular problems and long-term effects called “long COVID.”
At the time of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, causing a strain on the global medical system (including rehab and addiction treatment).
Will the Coronavirus Impact Addiction Treatment?
COVID-19 is already impacting addiction treatment.
Most addiction treatment relies on traditional program structures that require in-person attendance, as well as group therapy and support groups that typically expose patients to others. But right now, many patients are hesitant to attend these programs because of the risk of transmission.
That’s a valid concern during the pandemic. Some patients are avoiding treatment until a vaccine is available, but that could be months or even years一and your recovery cannot wait that long.
Providers who offer addiction treatment are aware that their patients are worried about virus transmission, and they’re taking action to ensure that COVID-19 doesn’t keep people out of rehab.
The long-term impact of COVID-19 could make addiction treatment more accessible and safe by leaving behind lasting changes like more rigorous guidelines, socially distanced groups or even telehealth treatment.
How Has Addiction Treatment Changed With the Coronavirus?
Addiction treatment is changing to be safe and socially distanced without compromising the quality of the care that you get.
Rehabs are making changes such as:
Offering Telehealth Treatment
While it’s not a fit for everybody, telehealth treatment may be an option for some people living with SUD.
Telehealth appointments take place as a video chat where you can interact with your provider without attending an appointment. If you’re a candidate for outpatient treatment, then telehealth treatment might be possible for you.
Restructuring Support Groups and Group Therapy
Social support is a mainstay of addiction treatment and without it, many people find that recovery is a lot harder.
Support groups and group therapy are important tools to help you remember that you’re not in recovery alone, but they necessitate being around other people. Some rehabs are holding their groups online via Zoom, hosting groups outdoors, or socially distancing their groups.
Screening for Pandemic-Related Mental Health Conditions
Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are on the rise since the pandemic began. The culprit could be stress, social isolation, health anxiety or a combination of all of them. Many treatment centers are including routine screening in their intake process to ensure that no co-occurring disorders are missed.
Loosening Restrictions on Medication-Assisted Treatment
Until very recently, patients who use medication-assisted treatment were often required to attend appointments (sometimes daily) to pick up their medication. To reduce the number of people entering clinics each day, the restrictions are loosening in some areas to allow people to pick up a few days’ or a week’s worth of medication.
Stepping Up Hygiene Policies
Along with making changes to the actual treatment programs, rehabs are also stepping up their hygiene to help reduce transmission of COVID-19.
Those measures might include:
- Mandatory mask-wearing for patients, visitors and staff (unless patients are in their rooms)
- Disinfecting surfaces and frequently-touched areas often, including counters, doorknobs and check-in areas
- Screening for COVID-19 before patients enter treatment and regularly for staff members
Should I Hold Off Treatment Due to the Coronavirus?
You should not delay treatment due to the coronavirus!
Addiction is a chronic disorder that requires treatment, the same as any physical condition like asthma or diabetes. You wouldn’t avoid the ER if you couldn’t breathe, so you shouldn’t avoid rehab when you need it the most.
Instead, look for a rehab that is open about their coronavirus policies and actively changing the way they operate to keep patients safe.
Of course it’s important for you to limit exposure to the virus, but addiction is a real-time threat to your health and wellbeing. Getting treatment now and not months or years down the road can make an enormous impact on your entire life.
What You Should Know Before Treatment During COVID-19
If you’re considering entering treatment right now, it’s probably the right choice. Addiction treatment can’t wait once you know that you need it.
At the same time, it’s normal to be anxious and worried about entering rehab during a pandemic. You might not know what to expect, or how the rehab experience may differ from the last time you experienced it (if you’ve attended treatment before).
You can lessen your worry by calling your chosen rehab and asking about:
- Visitor policies: Knowing ahead of time who can visit you can help alleviate some worry. Ask whether there are safe limits on numbers of visitors, how often, or whether they must wear a mask or get tested.
- Screening policies: Some rehabs will verbally ask you if you’ve had exposure to COVID-19 or experienced a cough or a fever. Others will ask you to submit to a temperature check at the door or show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test.
- Mask policies: Most rehabs will require that you wear a mask any time you’re in a common or public area. They’ll also request that visitors wear them and mandate that staff wears them. Masks significantly reduce transmission, which can ease your mind.
Find Safe Treatment for Addiction During COVID-19
If safe addiction treatment feels out of reach, know that it isn’t! You can find safe addiction treatment that doesn’t take unnecessary risks during COVID-19.
Now’s the time to seek treatment, even in these uncertain times. Delaying treatment only puts you at unnecessary risk of relapse.
You can find the right rehab center by calling around to ask about COVID-19 admission policies, but the process of finding a safe treatment center can be even easier.
Browse our directory of national rehab centers to find the right fit for you!