‘Relapses Are Through The Roof, Overdoses Are Through The Roof’: How The Pandemic Is Upping Substance Abuse

‘Relapses Are Through The Roof, Overdoses Are Through The Roof’: How The Pandemic Is Upping Substance Abuse By  for The Federalist

You take rehab.com—our website traffic is up 382 percent in the past 30 days with people looking for treatment for either substance abuse or mental health.’

This is a “pandemic within a pandemic,” according to addiction expert Tim Ryan, who’s watched the coronavirus outbreak exacerbate the preexistent opioid and mental health crises with devastating effect. Ryan, the star of A&E’s 2017 “Dope Man” special, is the founder of “A Man In Recovery Foundation,” which partners with Rehab.com. A former heroin addict, his mission is to assist others struggling with substance abuse.

In a Friday interview, Ryan explained how the stresses of isolation and financial trouble brought on by the pandemic are worsening addiction, both by pushing new users to abuse substances and making it more difficult for recovering addicts to stay sober. Rehab facilities are struggling to cope with the challenges of a viral outbreak, according to Ryan, who also said alcohol and fentanyl abuse seem to be especially prevalent as the nation stays home.

“What’s happening is people need purpose, they need connection, they need fellowship,” he told me. “Now they’re all alone.”

Ryan also shared compelling advice for concerned loved ones and anyone personally struggling to stay sober during this painful and unusual time. A transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity, is below.

Emily Jashinsky: How are we seeing the impacts of quarantine on substance abuse? What have you noticed?

Tim Ryan: What people don’t understand—maybe they do because it was always in the news—we had a pandemic with the opiates and mental health prior to COVID. So what we really have now is a pandemic within a pandemic. And relapses are through the roof, overdoses are through the roof, calls to the mental health hotline are up 800 percent.

Whether someone was newly sober, three months, six months, nine months, a year, they need purpose and connection. They need their fellowship. And take the person that’s coming up on 90 days sober. They can’t go to a 12-step based meeting, they can’t get a 90-day coin. So a lot of people—on top of the instability of the market, the financial crisis—they might have lost a job, they’re waiting on PPP funds. People are full of anxiety and panic and this epidemic is getting much, much worse.

EJ: Have you experienced that the pandemic is pushing people towards addiction who haven’t struggled with it before?

TR: It’s pushing people towards it, because what’s happening is, take the husband or wife or the twenty-some-year-old that would get home from work, maybe have a few drinks. Well, now they’re isolating at home, working through Zoom, starting to drink at three o’clock, starting to drink at one, starting to drink at ten in the morning. People are self-medicating due to the quarantine. And they’re drinking more, and abusing more, and relapses are through the roof right now.

EJ: What is it about the circumstances of being isolated in a home or in an apartment that can push people towards substance abuse?

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