3 Ways Social Isolation is Making Drug Addiction Worse

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic upended the lives of millions of Americans, leaving them ill, unemployed, and wondering where to turn to get the help they need.

But among all the lockdowns and arguments about public health, those who had been suffering from drug addiction before the pandemic often found themselves left behind.

The millions of men and women recovering from substance use disorder are also feeling abandoned, wondering when their lives will get back to normal and when they can begin to receive the support they had relied on to stay drug-free.

Social isolation can take a toll on those with a history of drug addiction and substance use disorder.

It only takes a quick glimpse beneath the surface to understand the connection between the well-meaning public health measure the COVID-19 pandemic has made necessary and the unintended consequences it has caused.

Here are three ways social isolation has worsened the already raging epidemic of drug abuse and dependency.

Removing Support Structures

Those recovering from substance use disorder rely more than most on strong community support, from attending 12-step meetings, 12-Step commitments, and ongoing counseling sessions to spending their leisure time with their sober friends.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made much of that community support risky, or even impossible, leaving recovering addicts wondering where to turn.

The loss of these support structures has been a huge blow for those in the recovery community, and for many, this loss has created a perfect storm of isolation, loneliness, temptation, and relapse.

For those already on the edge, the loss of a single support structure could prove fatal to the ongoing recovery. And even for those with additional resources, the continued lack of support could create a huge, and possibly insurmountable, problem.

Exacerbating Feelings of Loneliness

Many people have experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns, but none have felt these issues quite as acutely as those in recovery for substance use disorder.

For those who are recovering from drug addiction and dependency, these ongoing feelings of isolation and loneliness are more than just annoying – they could be deadly.

By exacerbating feelings of loneliness, social isolation is making an already bad situation even worse.

The longer these lockdowns go on, the worse the problem is likely to become.

Creating Financial Uncertainty

It should come as no surprise that financial uncertainty, poverty, and substance abuse often go hand in hand.

Those struggling under the strain of a drug dependency find it challenging, if not impossible, to hold down a job, forcing them into a downward spiral of financial deprivation and continued feelings of anxiety.

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented levels of unemployment and growing numbers of people in poverty, the connection is even more apparent.

As financial uncertainty grows in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, so does the risk that recovering addicts who have worked so hard to stay sober will succumb once again to their addictions and suffer potentially deadly relapses in the process.

No one can deny the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic or downplay the necessity of things like masking, social isolation, and targeted lockdowns to stop the spread. \

Among these reactions, there is growing worried that people in recovery will continue to be left behind.

Family members whose loved ones are in recovery would do well to reach out to those individuals, easing their social isolation, providing the ongoing support they need, and helping them survive the pandemic with their physical, emotional, and psychological health intact.