Coping with Addiction during Lockdown
As we enter the fourth week of the UK’s lockdown some of us are wondering what the impact is to those most vulnerable to addiction during this unprecedented time. Although it is early to tell what the overall impact of the lockdown will be, there are some concerning reports worth mentioning.
On 15 April 2020 a Guardian article noted a 100% rise in domestic abuse killings. Although shocking, this is not surprising considering the relationship between alcohol misuse and domestic violence. It is estimated that alcohol plays a key role in 40% of all crime and is even higher in the case of domestic abuse. This is worrying since alcohol use is reported by researchers to have increased significantly over the last 4 weeks. To make matters worse, many drug and alcohol services are not able to offer the support they normally would to those most vulnerable to addiction. Only yesterday someone told me that they now only have one session a month on the phone with his key worker as opposed to fortnightly face to face meetings.
Another article by the Independent warns that researchers at The University of Portsmouth are concerned over a second health crisis as a consequence of the increase in alcohol use. Just as worryingly, panic buying also applies to drugs with many drug users buying as much of their drug of choice as possible resulting in a shortage of illicit drugs. As many of us know, benzodiazepines such as diazepam and Xanax can be purchased online with relative ease. Many of these drugs are unsafe as they have not been regulated and are sold under brand names but mass produced in East Asia with significant risk to the consumer. Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) such as Spice are also easy to find. We all know what the risks associated with these drugs are.
The question that we might be asking is, what is the solution? How do we avoid a second health crisis? How to we minimise the impact of the lockdown for those vulnerable to addiction and their loved ones?
The important thing to remember is that support is available. Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are still running albeit online via Zoom. Many of those who were in recovery prior to the pandemic are still maintaining sobriety through so called mutual aid groups. Some are even stating that they prefer online meetings. Please see the NA or AA for further information on how to access online meetings.
You may on the other hand feel more suited to speaking to a therapist on a one to one basis. Many, if not all therapists I’ve interacted with over the last few weeks are offering therapy via Skype or Zoom. At The Practice all of our therapists are available online. Although unconventional under normal circumstances, online therapy is effective. I have continued to work with most of my previous clients and started working online with a number of new ones. Feedback is overwhelmingly positive so far and as a therapist I see how useful it is to have an online platform.
Drug and alcohol addiction are often triggered by stress and anxiety. We are in uncertain times and many have either lost their jobs or have someone very close who has. Meditation has been shown by numerous studies to reduce stress and anxiety. There are a number of apps (Calm, Headspace, Aura or Stop, Breathe and Think) which are either free or are offering free trials during this time. There are also individual and group mindfulness coaching sessions available online at The Practice which you may want to try.
Help is still available and recovery doesn’t need to stop because of the lockdown. In fact, it may be the case that there’s more of a reason to practice self-care and focus on getting help and support. Most importantly, recovery can start now.