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COVID-19 Substance Abuse Challenges

The current shelter-in-place orders now impacting the lives of all residents can be particularly challenging for those recovering from addiction.

Individuals who have battled addiction need to maintain a daily structure while also keeping busy. But the COVID-19 pandemic has upended life’s normal routine, which could prove to be dangerous for those in their daily fight with substance abuse.

“Our concern is that those who return home will begin abusing alcohol or drugs as services and support are limited,” said Certified Alcoholism Counselor for St. Charles Hospital’s Department of Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation, Brian Cunningham. “It’s difficult when we preach and discuss taking part in outdoor activities, obtaining sober hobbies and finding employment when each is difficult to obtain due to the current situation.”

He said there are several warning signs that could indicate an individual has again started using drugs or alcohol. These include altered sleep patterns, personality changes and mood swings. An additional sign that is less common is a return to associating with people that were in a person’s life during the time they abused substances.

“Family members and loved ones should be aware of these warning signs and be able to identify them and express concern for the person at risk for relapse,” Cunningham said. 

While the current COVID-19 situation has limited the number of counseling and support services available to those in recovery, there are still some programs available. St. Charles continues to admit patients for detox and 28-day drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

“Although the support system might seem limited, if used properly it can be beneficial and impactful for preventing a relapse,” Cunningham said.

At home, there are several steps family members can take to help someone who may be struggling with their recovery as they shelter-in-place. Paramount among them is being supportive but also setting up boundaries.

“If you let the person live with you, allowing them full access to the house and to come and go as they please with no rules, all you’re doing is fueling their addiction,” Cunningham said. “Families need to instill responsibilities in those who struggle with addiction. As a family member, we need to understand that the addictive person needs to make the choice to get sober and off drugs and what we can do is be supportive and have healthy boundaries.”

For more information on substance abuse counseling and recovery programs offered by Catholic Health Services, please call 1 (855) CHS-4500.

For the latest information on COVID-19, please visit the CHS Coronavirus Page.

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