Online Treatment, Virtual Check-Ins: Dealing With Addiction In A Pandemic

May 29, 2020
Originally published on May 29, 2020 1:24 pm

Editor’s Note: This hour discusses addiction and mental health. If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741. 

We look at addiction and substance abuse during the coronavirus pandemic and the resources available to those who are suffering.


Dr. Lipi Roy, clinical assistant professor at NYU, specializing in addiction medicine and substance use. NBC News medical contributor. (@lipiroy)

Dr. Joseph Lee, medical director of the Hazelden Betty Ford Youth Continuum. (@drjosephlee)

MJ Gottlieb, founder of the the Loosid app, which helps navigate addiction and maintain sobriety. (@MJGottlieb)

Addiction Resources

From The Reading List

Forbes: “Collision Of Crises: How Covid-19 Will Propel Drug Overdose From Bad To Worse” — “‘It’s like getting a hug from God. A warm feeling.’ That’s how ‘Robbie,’ my 27-year-old patient, responded when I asked what he enjoyed about heroin. A tall, lean young man wearing a wrinkled white t-shirt, Robbie had soft hazel eyes and an embracing demeanor.”

New York Times: “Could All Those ‘Quarantinis’ Lead to Drinking Problems?” — “The boredom of staying home and the intense anxiety produced by the pandemic have given rise to Twitter jokes about drinking before noon as alcohol sales have spiked.”

Yahoo: “Alcohol addiction and the coronavirus: Why this doctor says telemedicine is key right now” — “The coronavirus has impacted everyone’s way of life, but for those struggling with alcohol addiction, the past few months have been especially challenging. Alcohol sales have reportedly soared and experts worry that even those who have never grappled with alcohol dependency could develop unhealthy habits during the pandemic.”

Addiction Center: “COVID-19 is Causing People to Relapse” — “As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to unfold, the world is locking down, forcing millions out of work and many into isolation. While social distancing isn’t easy for anyone, it is hitting one group particularity hard.”

The News-Herald: “Coronavirus pandemic creates additional challenges for those with substance abuse disorders” — “As the country has grappled with the novel coronavirus pandemic, those struggling with addiction are facing additional challenges.”

The Winchester Star: “Coronavirus pandemic triggers spike in local overdoses, suicide calls” — “Area overdoses and calls to suicide prevention hotlines have soared since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-10th, was told during an online meeting with local drug treatment and mental health providers on Tuesday.”

NBC: “Tech tools help overcome drinking addiction during quarantine” — “If you’ve been drinking more over the past month or two you’re not alone.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “A tale of two epidemics: When COVID-19 and opioid addiction collide” — “I am a primary care doctor who has recovered from — and who treats — opiate addiction. I work in an inner-city primary care clinic in Chelsea, Massachusetts, which currently has the highest rate of COVID-19 in the state, due, in part, to poverty.”

BBC: “Coronavirus: Lockdown leaves addicts ‘close to relapse’” — “Social-distancing restrictions have also made it difficult for many counselling services to operate.”

Buzzfeed News: “The Coronavirus Is Keeping Addiction Counselors From Their Patients. So The Industry Has Transformed.” — “No one gets turned away. That was the principle for Options Recovery Services, a Bay Area addiction treatment network: If you showed up asking for help, you got it.”

USA Today: “‘Deaths of despair’: Coronavirus pandemic could push suicide, drug deaths as high as 150k, study says” — “The federal mental health czar is calling for more money to expand services to help people suffering amid the social isolation imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, as a new study estimates related deaths from alcohol, drug overdose and suicide could reach 150,000.”

Washington Post: “Opinion: How the coronavirus is creating other threats for addicts” — “Fear, economic distress and isolation could trigger anxiety and depression in anyone. For people who have opioid use disorders, the coronavirus pandemic is a tinderbox of potential triggers and double binds. Disjointed, often punitive approaches to assistance could leave many addicts at heightened risk of relapse or greater exposure to the virus.”

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