Trying minds for trying times –
August 28, 2020 – By all accounts, the number of relapses nationwide has increased since March, as have the numbers of accidental overdoses and suicides. There is little wonder that we are seeing more opioid overdoses countywide in San Diego. Last year, there were 152 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in San Diego County, while in our first six months of this year, there have already been 203 such deaths.
Addiction is a disease of isolation; the COVID-19 pandemic created a breeding ground for such dangerous seclusion. One man “graduated” from one of our outpatient programs and was clean and sober for more than seven years. In addition to his substance use disorder, he struggles with co-occurring mental illness. He maintained stability in his recovery by attending 12-step meetings for support. When the pandemic led to stay at home orders, 12-step meetings went to an online format. Unfortunately, this man’s phone did not cover access to online meetings, so he was left disconnected. Steeped in growing feelings of isolation, his mental health issues were triggered, and he felt himself decompensate. Soon, he started drinking to ease his loneliness and fear.
Thankfully, he contacted the program that had helped him years ago. He let us know that he did not have access for telehealth counseling by phone. So, we arranged to let him come onsite and meet individually with a counselor (both wore masks and practiced social distancing). The need for a brief stay at our detox program was indicated. After detox, he continued to meet individually with a counselor onsite at the outpatient program three times a week, and is now back on track in his recovery.