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The pandemic is having a significant impact on people with a substance use disorder who are in the early stages of addiction recovery, says author and motivational speaker Eric Gremminger. People in the early steps of addiction recovery depend upon the support of peers and groups to stay sober, and those support measures are threatened during a quarantine, Gremminger said. That stress only multiplies when one is unable to work and struggles to make ends meet financially, as well as being isolated in a home with a family that doesn’t understand the needs of someone in addiction recovery.

For the 16 million people globally and 3 million people in the U.S. suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD), COVID-19 brings a slew of issues: lack of face-to-face counseling services, methadone clinic shutdown and increased mortality risk from coronavirus from underlying respiratory damage.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as stress and anxiety are at all-time highs due to the added emotional weight of the coronavirus pandemic, we compiled our very best mental health advice -- all spliced into easy-to-digest sections on burnout, anxiety and sleep, plus the benefits of meditation, physical activity and getting outdoors. We hope this helps you navigate any mental health troubles or emotional distress you may be dealing with at this time.

Reading the tea leaves, so to speak, is the job of our senior team at OPEN MINDS. But I will admit to getting “mixed signals” (or is that mixed tea leaves) when it comes to addiction treatment in the post-crisis recovery. What do we know? First, the demand for addiction treatment will likely spike. Social distancing is a risk factor for relapse because consumers self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to ease the stress (see Once The Coronavirus Pandemic Subsides, The Opioid Epidemic Will Rage). A lack of face-to-face services, methadone clinic shutdowns, and increases in poverty raise the mortality due to opioids, while opioid-induced diminished lung capacity raises the mortality of COVID-19.

Soon after, a 71-year-old man came to the door hoping for a bed to sober up. Turned away, he fell asleep on the side of the road and Healing Transitions staff covered him with blankets.That incident stuck with Budnick, as he and other Wake County partners worked to quickly set up a remote detox center. Programs for people who use drugs or are in recovery, like Healing Transitions, have been quick to adapt to the changing needs of their clients. However, some providers are cash-starved and waiting for federal and state funding relief. Meanwhile, the pandemic has created the perfect storm of stressors, putting those who use drugs or are in early addiction recovery at risk for the COVID-19 virus and overdose.

As a psychiatrist, I understand the realities of the mental health stressors that exist from this global pandemic and the potential for an increase in psychological care needs now and in the aftermath. However, it’s possible that we emerge from this with innumerable positive mental-health outcomes.