Virtual Support Encouraged for Recovery During Pandemic
April 21, 2020 (Jackson, MS) – The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is causing challenges throughout the healthcare industry, both for patients and providers, and the substance use and addiction treatment fields are no exception.
Among the vulnerable populations the virus is known to have significant effects on are those individuals who smoke or vape, use opioids, or have a substance use disorder. Of particular importance to people in recovery from a substance use disorder are the social distancing guidelines that require people to maintain physical distance between individuals and limit gatherings.
“Support from their social networks is vitally important to people in recovery,” said Mae Slay, Outreach Coordinator with Stand Up, Mississippi, the statewide initiative to put an end to the opioid crisis and inspire all Mississippians to create a stronger and healthier future. “Whether someone is in recovery from an opioid use disorder, alcohol use, or any other substance, the social connections that person has are vital for lending them the support they need.
“With the efforts at social distancing taking place, there could be risks for relapse because meetings of support groups may be limited,” Slay said. “We want everyone to remember that even though they may not be able to meet in person, they can maintain connection and interaction over the phone, through text, and video chats.”
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has shared information on virtual recovery resources that may be helpful for people fighting addiction or struggling to maintain social connections during the continuing crisis. Its guidance notes that while quarantines are needed to control the spread of disease, social connectedness is critically important in maintaining recovery.
Among the virtual recovery programs it recommends are online meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, available at www.aa-intergroup.org; Narcotics Anonymous, available at www.na.org/meetingsearch; We Connect Recovery, available at www.weconnectrecovery.com; and several others. SAMHSA’s full Virtual Recovery Resources document is available on the agency’s web site at www.samhsa.gov/coronavirus.
There may be additional challenges related to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for persons facing opioid use disorders. MAT combines behavioral therapy and FDA-approved medications to treat substance use disorders. Many of the medications used in MAT block the euphoric effects of opioids and relieve physiological cravings without the negative effects of the abused drugs.
To support the opioid treatment programs that prescribe the medication used in MAT, SAMHSA has also allowed states to request exceptions allowing patients to receive 28 or 14 days of take-home doses for MAT.
“MAT is an important part of the recovery process for many people,” said Chuck Oliphant, Director of the DMH Division of Wellness and Recovery Supports. “While we are maintaining social distancing, people in recovery can ask their opioid treatment programs for this flexibility.
“This may be a difficult time, but we should remember to ask for help when it is needed, and the recovery community is still there to provide support, even if that means virtual support for the time being.”
Help is Available
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990, and you may text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. The Crisis Text Line can connect someone with a crisis counselor by texting HOME to 741741. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
The DMH Helpline will remain staffed at all times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Call 1-877-210-8513 for information about services or supports near you. Additional resources for Mississippians are located www.mentalhealthms.com. and www.standupms.org. Additional information and resources are shared regularly on DMH’s Facebook and Instagram pages.