How Is Coronavirus Impacting People With An Addiction?

As of March 27th, 2020, there are over 559,000 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases worldwide, and 25,278 deaths. In the United States, there are more than 86,000 cases (more than anywhere else in the world), and that number is growing each day. With the virus being spread mainly person-to-person, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend putting distance between yourself and other people. Theme parks, schools, churches, offices, restaurants and bars, and retailers are some of the many establishments that have temporarily shut their doors or enacted remote work for their employees to reduce the potential spread of the virus.

President Donald Trump stated that people should avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. Many Americans are choosing to practice social distancing by avoiding groups and crowds, while others are quarantined after receiving a diagnosis of COVID-19 or coming in contact with someone who is infected. Batting addiction during the coronavirus outbreak is posing to be another complicated issue. Staying home alone may not be a problem for many people, but for those who are struggling with an addiction and rely on the support of others, it raises major concerns.

Loneliness and isolation are triggers for drug and alcohol abuse. People who are dependent on 12-step meetings are conflicted in this time, asking themselves if there are dangers in attending their normal meetings or if its more dangerous to stay isolated. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Those who are higher at risk include older adults, and people with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, lung disease, and heart disease. People battling an alcohol addiction may be at increased risk, as large alcohol consumption can weaken the immune system and make it difficult for the immune system to fight off infections. Illicit drugs, like cocaine and meth, leave the body exhausted and dehydrated. Abusing drugs and alcohol also puts individuals more at risk for risky behavior such as unprotected sex or sharing needles.

On March 16th, the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous released a memo on how groups should respond to the coronavirus. For groups that are still meeting in person, it is recommended to avoid shaking hands, hugging, and holding hands. Hospitality tables should be thoroughly sanitized, or food hospitality should be temporarily suspended. In one article by USA Today, a 12-step meeting attendee said, “I haven’t noticed any difference other than lack of handshakes and people putting their arms around each other during prayer. I find people have a positive attitude as a big part of recovery is not embracing fear.” Attending meetings is non-negotiable for some recovering addicts, but in some cases, people are left without a choice.

Remote 12-Step Meetings

The memo from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) recommends that meetings have contingency plans for if in-person meetings must be cancelled. In some areas, buildings that once held meetings are closed, forcing meetings to relocate or go virtual. Creating contact lists with each other’s phone numbers, email, and social media is a way to make sure that communication stays open. Various organizations, including AA, are offering phone and online meetings. The Online Intergroup by AA lists an online meetings directory, with an abundance of meetings via phone or webcam. Some meetings are using the video webinar tool Zoom or Google Hangouts so attendees can see each other and receive a visual connection. Meetings vary depending on the group’s needs but may start with a 15-minute talk from a speaker, followed by discussion. Some meetings are available 7 days a week, others meet several days a week.

The community Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) offers online meetings that can be found through their website. They host Zoom meetings multiple times a day which are free for anyone to attend. These meetings can provide the interaction and support that is so essential for recovering addicts to receive. Amid the coronavirus, it is important to keep sobriety at the forefront of your mind and know that there are options for attending meetings in person and online. Create contacts with others who you can reach out to if necessary.  Battling an addiction during the coronavirus panic can seem daunting, but there are resources that provide an option for even those who are quarantined.

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Hayley Hudson

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  • Hayley Hudson is the Director of Content at Addiction Center. She earned a B.A. from the University of Central Florida, with a focus on writing and rhetoric, media, and communications. Hayley has been a professional writer and editor since 2016.

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