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Is it Safe to Go to Drug Rehab During the Coronavirus Epidemic?

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With the recent spread of the Delta variant strain of the Covid-19 virus, rates in the US are climbing. The data published by the CDC’s Covid Data Tracker shows that the current 7-day average of infections has risen to a level not seen since May and is steadily climbing (2021).

Even with the vaccine now widely available and mask mandates, social distancing and occupancy now relaxed, many are concerned that the vaccine alone will not be enough to keep them safe.

Yet the situation around Covid-19 is changing every day. If you are in the recovery community and thinking about whether now is the right time­ to go to a drug or alcohol rehabilitation center–here are some things to consider.

Rehab Centers Are Adapting

Inpatient and Partial Hospitalization programs (PHP’s) are doing their part to provide safe addiction treatment during Covid-19. With that being said, even when strictly following CDC guidelines no place is 100% safe.

Because rehab centers may vary in their response to the pandemic, you should call and ask what safety measures have been put in place before you decide which program to attend.

Here is a little cheat sheet of some questions you can ask:

  • Are you requiring Covid-19 testing Upon entry?
  • How often do you screen clients and staff for Covid-19 symptoms?
  • Are you adjusting group sizes for counselling and living arrangements to safe levels?
  • Are you holding in-person group and individual counselling?
  • Are you limiting the number of outside visitors to your clinic?
  • Do you regularly test your own staff for the Covid-19 virus?
  • What safety procedures and equipment are employed to keep your patients and staff safe.
  • How often are you sanitizing the areas inside your facilities?

The Pandemic is Causing Some Limitations for Patient Care

The primary goals of any drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility is keeping their residents both free from addictive substances and providing a safe place to do so. Unfortunately, the pandemic has shown us that sometimes these two things can be in conflict.

  • Use of Sanitizers: Both personal hand sanitizers and sanitizer stations have become indispensable since the pandemic began. In a rehabilitation environment, however, they also carry a risk for abuse. Keeping sanitizing stations around helps to prevent the spread of Covid-19 but making them easily accessible requires more supervision.
  • Medicine Pick-Ups: Some patients that are receiving medicine for withdrawals are finding themselves having to take public transportation to pick up their daily medication. This could lead to a rise in infection rates among people in sober living facilities.
  • The Telehealth transition: The telehealth industry has emerged from the pandemic stronger than ever. Many rehabilitation centers are now providing counselling via the web and making use of phone applications to provide treatment services to patients in recovery.

Web counselling is a necessary compromise for the times that we are living in. While it is a viable option for many, it does not provide as much of the human element as face-to-face interaction does.

Balancing the Risks

Individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders and mental health problems have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

Since “shelter in place” orders were announced, reports of relapse and overdoses have been on the rise. This can be attributed to feelings of isolation, anxiety about the future, concern for loved ones, and fear that having too much free time will lead to feedback into addictive thoughts and actions.

These unprecedented times carry a sense of urgency with them. Addiction is a disease– and like any disease choosing to forgo treatment can be life-threatening.

If you are finding it increasingly difficult to stay sober and if you are engaging in risky patterns of use and behavior, does it make sense to forgo treatment?

Considering Your Overall Health

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people with substance use disorders are more likely to have underlying health conditions (CDC). By choosing to get vaccinated, you greatly reduce your risk of experiencing life-threatening symptoms.

What If I Am Vaccinated?

There are a lot of misconceptions about the Delta variant. People are wondering: Can I still get sick if I am fully vaccinated? The answer is a little complicated…

According to MIT Medical, getting fully vaccinated will likely prevent you from getting seriously ill from Delta and other strains of Covid-19 (Schive, 2021). To put that further into perspective, data for the month of May found that fully vaccinated individuals made up only 0.1 percent of Covid hospitalizations and less than 1 percent of deaths (Johnson & Stobbe, 2021 as cited in Schive, 2021)

Does Having a Substance Abuse Disorder Make the Vaccine Unsafe?

No, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with underlying health problems related to addiction or people taking medications for opioid use disorder, such as methadone or buprenorphine, are still able to get the Covid-19 vaccine (CDC, 2021).

Closing Thoughts

While pandemic still poses risks to people experiencing drug and alcohol addiction, rehabilitation centers are taking important steps to reduce transmission and keep people safe.

Because people with a substance abuse disorder are more at risk, we strongly encourage vaccination as a way to give individuals greater safety and peace of mind while in treatment.

Nobody should have to go through addiction alone. Contact us now at (866) 609-7314

to learn about a variety of recovery resources available to you.

 

Citations

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, July 13). COVID-19 and people at increased risk. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/resources/covid-drugs-QA.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fneed-extra-precautions%2Fother-at-risk-populations%2Fpeople-who-use-drugs%2FQA.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). CDC COVID Data Tracker. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#trends_dailytrendscases.

COVID-19 & substance use. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, May 27). https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/comorbidity/covid-19-substance-use.

Schive, K. (2021, July 15). Delta’s here; I’m vaccinated; how cautious should I be? MIT Medical. https://medical.mit.edu/covid-19-updates/2021/07/deltas-here.

 

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