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As coronavirus rages on, the opioid epidemic does too

As fears of COVID-19 sweep across the United States, many people have been forced to stay home and isolate for months. Away from jobs, friends and many loved ones, this quarantine has proven mentally challenging for everyone. And for those battling drug addiction, the ability to fight this highly contagious illness, along with the urge to use, could have more longstanding consequences.

“With the stay-at-home orders, the isolation, for people — especially in recovery, especially newly recovering people — the first year of recovery, they’ve really lost their entire support network,” said Dr. Deni Carise, chief scientific officer at Recovery Centers of America.

In 2018, the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services reported that there were 14,809 substance abuse treatment facilities operating in the United States. For that same year, SAMHSA suggested that 21.2 million people aged 12 or older needed substance use treatment, which is roughly 1 in 13 individuals in the U.S. And in-person meetings and community connection is a huge part of post-addiction recovery.

Since the arrival of COVID-19, that type of treatment has become much more difficult. A process like Narcotics Anonymous and other 12-step or recovery programs created to hold people accountable to their community and peers are now moving to a virtual space.

Carise said that since the outbreak, the addiction community is trying to find new ways to maintain the connection they need using virtual outpatient services. Some experts say that type of connection can be difficult and often overwhelming for those in recovery to navigate.

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