How are Addiction Treatment Centers maintaining services yet protecting patients amid the coronavirus pandemic?
Many nations around the world have been crippled by drug and substance abuse. Amid the new coronavirus pandemic (also known as COVID-19), medical experts have discovered that the most vulnerable people are children, the elderly, the sick, and people with weak immune systems such as drug users. This said people with addiction problems must be provided with professional attention, especially from addiction treatment centers in the face of this novel pandemic. But first, we should understand what coronavirus is and how it affects the human body.
COVID-19 belongs to a broader family of coronavirus diseases, which include the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). Researchers have reported a variety of coronavirus symptoms, which include fever, running nose, coughs, difficulty in breathing, common cold, and severe respiratory infections, among others. The first case to be reported was in December last year; however, Chinese authorities reported recently that a few people were infected in November. The virus was traced back to an animal market, and scientists say it originated from a bat and somehow hopped to a pangolin. Since then, the rapid virus has spread to several countries in the world.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIH) has reported that communities with substance use disorders (SUH) are vulnerable to coronavirus. This is mainly because the virus infects the lungs. This could cause severe threats for people who vape or smoke tobacco, smoke marijuana, and consume other drugs. The institution reported that it could also hit the opioid and methamphetamine using the population hard, mainly because of the effects of the drugs on both pulmonary and respiratory health. Another reason is that most drug users are likely to evade self-quarantine than those in the general population. This situation exposes them to the virus, causing COVID-19. The NIH has asked the general public to be vigilant in active surveillance as medical experts work to eliminate the emerging threat. Substance users must seek addiction treatment services in drug rehabs.
People around the world have been asked to take standard precautions as everyone has an equal responsibility for reducing the spread of coronavirus as much as possible. Tests that were done recently at the NIH, Princeton University, and UCLA by United States scientists have confirmed that the coronavirus can stay in the air for up to three hours and on some surfaces like plastic and stainless steel for up to three days. The Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) has asked the public to be concerned about both their physical wellness as well as mental health. Everyone should ensure they stay calm and, most importantly, in a comfortable and safe place. The following are tips for avoiding panic and maintaining good mental health:
- Choose a trusted source of information, preferably a national or international source like the CDC
- Reduce the amount of time spent every day reading coronavirus updates
- Learn to feel comfortable with the unknown or limiting yourself to little information
- Avoid social media updates on the current state. Most are misleading
- Pay attention to your basic needs
- Seek professional support especially for the ill and opioid users
The CDC has asked everyone to take the following precautions to reduce the spread of the virus:
- Wash your hands thoroughly
- Distance yourself from people especially those who look sick ( at least two yards)
- Practice personal hygiene
- Avoid touching your face especially the nose, eyes, and mouth
With most of the country worried about the coronavirus pandemic, most addiction patients may be thinking of postponing or canceling their rehab appointment until things get better. However, the truth is that many addiction treatment centers have put measures in place to protect their patients and, at the same time, maintaining their services. Several drug rehab and other addiction treatment services have taken the initiative to offer addiction services to help patients in the prevention of coronavirus. Many institutions have implemented extra precautions such as disinfecting surfaces, the use of larger rooms to facilitate social distancing, testing patients & staff during admission, and implementing the CDC regulations. There have also been reports of drug rehabs hiring specialists just in case quarantine is needed for patients who show any viral symptoms.
On the other hand, the CDC and other medical institutions are doing a great job in managing the spread of the disease and looking for solutions. The risks of drug and alcohol abuse to human health are very critical, especially at a time like this. The risk of contracting coronavirus is lesser under managed institutions. A CDC report says that the opioid crisis in the United States has grown significantly, with about 100 deaths recorded every day. Substance abuse remains one of the most critical problems in the country.
The connection between coronavirus and drug abuse
Medical professionals have discovered that the most vulnerable people to coronavirus are people with weak immune systems or those whose immunities have been compromised. Drug users, especially those with nicotine addiction, are likely to be affected since COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. Chinese doctors have examined the affected populations and discovered that more than 50 percent of the cases were men. The reason for using gender in conducting the study is because Chinese men are more likely to smoke cigarettes than women. This lowers their immune system and causes secondary illnesses such as respiratory difficulties, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases. Vaping also has the same effects since it releases aerosols that harm lung cells. Since the novel virus affects the respiratory system, smoking and vaping is more likely to cause more complications when treating COVID-19.
Doctors have also reported that marijuana smoke can also weaken the respiratory organs, which in turn increases the risk of contracting coronavirus. As discussed earlier, social media misleads many people since the information from the platform is not factual or backed by research. Recently several posts made rounds claiming that Cannabidiol (CBD), which is found in cannabis, has medical elements that can cure COVID-19. Though scientists have proven the use of cannabidiol in treating anxiety and pain, no research has surfaced, showing the use of CBD in treating the virus. The fact remains that every hot smoke that is inhaled affects proper lung functions. It would be best if users avoided sharing pipes, bongs, joints, or any other paraphernalia since they contain saliva and are likely to spread the disease-causing virus.
The NIH has reported that people with opioid use disorders have separate challenges to those that consume high doses medically. Slow breathing, which is caused by the drugs in the bloodstream, puts users at risk of fatal overdose and hypoxemia, which is an abnormally low level of oxygen in the blood. Low oxygen levels pose a massive threat to brain health as well as respiratory health. Many deaths have been recorded by overdosed users caused by chronic respiratory illnesses. Likewise, COVID-19 endangers the lives of opioid users.
Methamphetamine, on the other hand, also puts its users at risk. The drug narrows capillaries, veins, and arteries, which in turn has been known to cause pulmonary hypertension to most of its users. Since its users are rapidly increasing in the country, the drug could have an adverse effect on treating the victims of COVID-19. Other drugs like cocaine and meth could put its users at risk of being a victim to the virus. All these drugs alter the normal state of the immune system. Other social habits connected with drug abuse, including unprotected sex and sharing of needles, exposes drug users to pathogens.
Coronavirus has negatively affected the economies of every country. Currently, there are drug shortages in the US as a result of factories being shut down. Close to 90 percent of drug ingredients in the country come from Asia. The FDA is still monitoring the situation between the two countries, especially since more than 20 drugs, including blood pressure medications and antibiotics, are primarily imported from China.
Several addiction patients rely solely on prescription medication for their recovery, during detoxification, and when managing withdrawal symptoms. It is recommended for people who need medication for recovery to purchase vast amounts of medical supplies. However, several patients may not have the willpower to recover, hence relapsing. In some cases, patients may fear going outside. This can affect patients who are going through withdrawal symptoms and other complications such as heart disease. It can also affect the mental health of patients who need immediate attention.
If you are currently struggling with addiction, you need immediate attention. Overcoming addiction is a big step towards living a healthy and long life. It is one of the factors that determine life and death. There is no evidence that drug rehabs are more vulnerable to coronavirus than any other place. The truth is recovery institutions are safer than our neighborhoods. You need to contact an addiction treatment service or a drug rehab center to start your journey to recovery.