COVID-19 and its Impacts on People with Substance Use Disorder
A lot has changed since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic in December 2019. When the virus started spreading around the world, countries moved quickly to implement strict measures – like closing borders and lockdowns – in a bid to flatten the curve. As a result, the daily routines, including work situations, school, social life, and so on, changed.
Businesses – including illicit drug supply – have taken a hit because of the pandemic. Thanks to the border restrictions and stay at home orders, drug suppliers are having a hard time moving their products. Peddlers, too, can’t access products, let alone hang around streets as usual. This might sound like a good thing – but when you look at it from a “user” perspective, it’s a hard blow.
Coronavirus and the supply disruption of illicit drug supply
According to one article that was published on CNN, UK drug policy and crime experts were concerned about the growing number of shortage reports and skyrocketing prices of drugs as supply lines are cut off due to closure of international borders.
When individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) cannot access their drugs of choice because of shortage, they are either forced to enter withdrawal or turn to riskier alternatives. Unfortunately, both these options are potentially dangerous if unmanaged.
Besides, since heavy users often have co-occurring disorders, this could add strain on services that are already near breaking point. Most experts are concerned about the disruption of illicit drug supply, especially amongst the vulnerable populations.
Individuals struggling with severe addiction are likely to share the little drugs and equipment they have with their peers, and predispose themselves to health issues like HIV, and even Coronavirus itself.
Coronavirus and the risk of relapse
But drug shortage isn’t the only concern during this world pandemic. There’s also the issue of isolation, boredom, and anxiety. The stay-at-home orders and business lockdown has restricted movement and access. People can no longer move around freely or hang at different joints with their peers.
They also are uncertain about what the future holds. With all these fears and lack of social support, many people – including those who are recovering from substance abuse – are turning to drugs and alcohol for emotional, physical, and mental comfort. This is a huge problem.
In fact, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued an advisory that urged people not to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the boredom because they can have adverse effects on one’s mental and physical health, and reduce their immunity.
Coronavirus and health issues among drug dependent individuals
Coronavirus pandemic has the potential of hitting those who smoke marijuana or tobacco real hard. People with methamphetamine and opioid addiction, for instance, may be vulnerable because of these drugs’ effects on pulmonary and respiratory health.
Again, individuals with drug or alcohol dependency issues are more likely to experience incarceration or homelessness than the rest of the population. As you would expect, these situations pose challenges regarding the transmission of COVID-19. NIDA recommends active surveillance on these possibilities as organizations work to understand this and other emerging threats.
People with substance use disorders need to get professional help. Quitting cold-turkey or quitting without help can result in withdrawal symptoms, some of which are life-threatening. Seeking professional advice means getting medical detoxification and going through counseling therapy, both of which are ideal in treating SUDs.