Addiction is often referred to as a disease of isolation, and overcoming that challenge has only become more difficult during a pandemic that has forced people indoors — in some cases to live lonely lives, with drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the stress.
Several studies have shown that binge drinking has increased during the pandemic, and a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited a “concerning acceleration” of opioid-related overdoses this year.
At the same time, many treatment centers have closed down or limited in-person visits.
Some centers have turned virtual or shut down because of virus outbreaks, while others struggle to retain residents after having been compelled to restructure their programming or eliminate visits from family and bar trips outside the facility.
A recent survey of 165 centers by the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, a nonprofit organization that represents hundreds of centers, found that 43 percent had to reduce patient capacity, nearly a third saw a decrease in patient retention, and 10 percent had to shut down because of the pandemic. The majority of the closures have been in the Northeast, according to the association, because of the outbreak’s early concentration in New York.
“People are relapsing left and right,” said Sarah Manfredo, who was treated at Alina Lodge recovery center in New Jersey. “The loneliness plays into it.”
The threat to these centers may begin easing, as residents and staff of addiction treatment centers in New York State recently began to receive the vaccine as part of the first phase of the rollout.
But at the moment, because of the difficulties of congregate living and treatment, the association of treatment providers reported that 44 percent of their centers are conducting half their programming virtually.