During the pandemic, one has heard rumors of how people are feeling isolated in their homes, bored, lonely and unfortunately having even greater challenges with addictions. Once an addictive substance has been chosen as a way to damp down pain of many sorts, it can quickly become an addiction. In the last half century, the medical care field has also learned that genetics can predispose one to drug and alcohol addictions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 2020, 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use as a way of coping with stress or emotions related to COVID-19. The American Medical Association reported in December 2020 that more than 40 U.S. states have seen increases in opioid-related mortality along with ongoing concerns for those with substance use disorders.
There are practical pandemic-related reasons for the rise in overdoses. People are more likely to die when they are using drugs alone, because there’s no one there to call 911 or administer naloxone, an opioid-reversal agent. For those living alone during the pandemic, this isolation presented an obvious risk.
One of the counselors at Chester County Drug and Alcohol reported that during the pandemic, previous social drinking has become a daily pattern of having a glass of wine or beer earlier in the day and drinking way beyond cocktail hour due to being at home 24/7. This is a dependency that some are now trying to break, while others may be experiencing needing help in doing so.
Intervention services are picking up thanks to the increased availability of telemedicine for behavioral health concerns. While the pandemic initially caused many clinics and community-based organizations to close their doors, telehealth options for physical and mental health problems have become increasingly available as insurance providers and organizations have recognized the need.
In addition, it’s becoming more common for community-based groups like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous to meet virtually. Most insurers, including Medicaid, have lifted previous telehealth restrictions on treatment for behavioral health, including substance.
Luis Tovar, at a recent Southern Chester County Opportunity Network (SCCON) meeting, shared the importance of being on the look-out for families with youth dealing with drug and alcohol addiction and offering Kacie’s Cause as a resource.
Luis has partnered with Andy Rumford, who lost his daughter, Kacie to a heroin overdose in 2013. Kacie’s Cause provides education about the opioid and heroin epidemic; facilitates support groups, and provides assistance in obtaining free Narcan.
On their web site www.kaciescause.org they are stressing that Narcan (naloxone) has a shelf life of 2 years. They recommend replacing the medication at the expiration date as the effectiveness is not quarantined. At the same time, if an emergency arises, to use what is on hand, as it is better than nothing.
Previously, Kacie’s Cause support groups had been held on a weekly basis at First Baptist Church, 415 W. State St., Kennett Square every Thursday from 7pm-9pm. These sessions were led by Luis Tovar. They will not re-open until pandemic restrictions have been lifted.
Luis encourages us to go to their web site and learn about available resources and to remember the importance of supporting and reaching out to families dealing with addiction with compassion and resource information.
Chester County Drug and Alcohol has an assessment tool on their web site to help identify if you or another have signs of an addiction problem. Check out their website (www.chesco.org216/) for a comprehensive list of resources, as well. For information and referral--1-866-286-3767.
For parents and families dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, it is important to take action and receive guidance and help ASAP. The PA Get Help Now Line is: 717-216-0905. They will identify services, help set-up counseling and point you to the local resources. And, of course with a drug overdose, call 911 immediately.
As a community who cares, we need to stay awake to substance abuse and find ways to get help and assist others in doing the same!