Social distancing making addiction recovery more difficult

Philip O’Hara is in recovery from heroin addiction. He says social distancing has been hard.

“The ability to lean on other sober individuals for help and guidance has been by far the biggest thing that has changed my life,” he said.

“Social distancing, again, as much as it’s keeping people physically safe, it’s having a significant impact on their mental health. It is causing greater anxiety, greater depression,” said Katherine Coleman, associate vice president at CarePlus Addiction Recovery Services.

CarePlus is transitioning to telehealth, like Zoom.

“Telehealth was a platform that we had that we were utilizing on a much smaller scale, and now we have had to completely shift into it,” Coleman said, “which allows some face to face contact, which allows community contact through peers for people to feel like they are still connected to the individuals that are going to help them so much.”

MJ Gottleib is also in recovery. He’s the co-founder of Loosid, a free app that connects people in recovery with services. Since social distancing began, Loosid’s user numbers have doubled.

“We’ve seen so much more from the standpoint of the recovery suite, which we call sobriety help, people jumping into groups — and even dating,” Gottleib said. “We immediately switched to virtual events and found every relevant virtual event that’s happening around the country that either is sobriety-focused or health and wellness focused, to allow people to still connect and engage.”

“For me, one that’s been great is the meditation group and the yoga group,” said O’Hara. “So getting advice on how to slow down my thinking, especially right now when I fall into these panic attacks. It’s been very very helpful.”

But not everyone has access to the technology to access these services, and it largely breaks down along poverty lines. At Integrity House in Newark, three-quarters of the outpatient population has dropped off in the last few weeks.

“I was just talking to a gentleman earlier today, and right now he’s having a tough time because he doesn’t have the technology to just log onto an AA meeting or an NA meeting through the Zoom technology. And it’s those folks that we should be really worried about right now,” said Integrity House President and CEO Robert Budsock.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you can always call New Jersey’s hotline at 844-REACH NJ, or (844) 732-2465.

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