After a record year in 2018 when drug overdose deaths in America fell to a 25-year low, overdose fatalities are back on the rise, complicated and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s well-documented that many individuals turned to alcohol and drug abuse to numb the feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, boredom, and dread that cropped up during the nearly year-long pandemic. But with many addiction treatment centers restricting in-person services to protect public health, how can those seeking recovery get the help they need?
Inaccessibility Poses Problems
Barriers to accessibility and availability are a major roadblock to wellness. Fortunately, it is possible to get help while staying safe and remote. The one upside to the pandemic is that it has forced service providers to think outside of the box when offering treatment, facilitating a massive pivot to online services and an explosion in telemedicine’s popularity.
Telemedicine—one arm of the system more broadly known as telehealth—is the move to deliver clinical services via telecommunications technology. This system is a massive boon for medical professionals and patients as we all continue to deal with the fallout from COVID-19.
Those struggling with substance abuse and addiction are among the most vulnerable to the isolation and lack of care caused by the pandemic. If it was difficult for individuals to get the substance abuse care they needed before the pandemic, COVID-19 has multiplied the issue tenfold.
The Rise of Remote Care
While telemedicine existed before the pandemic, only about 17 percent of licensed treatment facilities were equipped to use the system. But even when practitioners did offer telemedicine, some patients showed a reluctance to use it.
Now, ten months into the pandemic, everything has changed. Telemedicine has skyrocketed, both among professionals that offer it and patients who use it. Here are just some of the virtual services now being offered:
- 12-step meetings
- Psychotherapy appointments
- Remote medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
Thanks to remote MAT, many individuals could continue receiving the necessary prescriptions for opioid use disorder (OUD), medications such as buprenorphine and methadone. Under normal circumstances, the process of initiating MAT is subject to stringent federal and state regulations. However, these are not normal circumstances, and rules have, mercifully, been loosened to facilitate broader access.
Because of this, MAT prescribers found the transition to telemedicine to be easy and straightforward for established patients. But because of waived drug screenings and less rigorous oversight, providers are understandably more cautious about taking on new patients.
Overall, patients who have participated in telemedicine for addiction treatment have experienced a marked positive impact, thanks to greater accessibility and convenience.
Now, more than ever, access to care for addictions is absolutely critical. That’s why Landmark Recovery is proud to offer remote services to anybody struggling with substance abuse and addiction. The journey to sobriety is never an easy one, but we are here to support you along the way. The first step starts with you. Reach out today to find out about your next steps.