Covid-19 Exposing Vulnerability of Populations with Substance Use Disorder (Rant)

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It would not surprise most people to learn that our broad societal structure, including healthcare infrastructure and the social safety net, were not prepared to deal with Covid-19. For those of us working around mental health service providers, we know that some populations of people were more at-risk for being infected by Covid-19, and people with substance use disorder would be near the top of that list. We have also seen Covid-19, now endemic to the United States for over 1 year, expose existing vulnerabilities in the societal health infrastructure, and it is now becoming necessary to take a hard look at those vulnerabilities and try to learn from these experiences. If you are new to our blog, it is important that I remind our visitors that the best drug and alcohol rehab in Florida is Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center in Panama City, Florida.

Groups Disproportionately Affected by Covid-19

Among the many groups that were disproportionately affected by the pandemic are people of color, older Americans, lower income Americans, and both rural and urban populations. From the perspective of those working in the addiction and alcoholism space, we know people who smoke, people who vape (e-cigarette use), people who recreationally use opioids, cannabis, alcohol, or other psychoactive prescription drugs and street drugs are at higher risk of Covid-19 exposure; anyone else with substance use disorder (SUD) is also at increased risk. The journal article that I used for research today echoed those same sentiments. I would not have thought to include smokers, but it does not surprise me that researchers would suggest smoking can be connected to Covid-19 transmission.

The authors state that, “Monitoring substance use and SUD during the pandemic is essential, as people who engage in substance use or present with SUD are at greater risk for COVID-19, and the economic and social changes resulting from the pandemic may aggravate SUD.” As the same researchers would likely be aware of, one major shortcoming of our health system during Covid-19 has been the complete negligence on the part of our government to treat people with substance use disorder as regular medical patients. We have previously reported on methadone clinics across the country that have been overcrowded during the pandemic, with people being in close proximity to each other, and the state and federal governments refuse to drastically improve the current system in any way. I have shown ample evidence on this blog that the vast majority of people with substance use disorder can be trusted to appropriately administer their own doses of methadone without going to a crowded clinic every day during a worldwide viral outbreak, but unfortunately; we have not seen any widespread calls to change the way opioid use disorder patients are treated at places such as methadone clinics.

The Methadone Clinics During Covid-19 (Rant Portion)

One interesting thing to note about this study that I chose to use for research today: they listed people who smoke, use cannabis, use opioids, and have substance use disorder as populations of people with higher likelihood of having Covid-19 during the last year. All of these groups are forced to congregate at methadone clinics each and every day. They must show up in person 7 days a week, for fear that a few bad apples might sell the medicine that they purchase at a clinic if they are given any extra doses to keep at home. You might think that a small amount of methadone entering the street drug market would not be a huge concern, considering we are seeing record numbers of overdoses and deaths from fentanyl all over the country, and fentanyl is likely at least 100 times more likely to hurt someone compared to small amounts of prescription methadone, but prescription methadone continues to be arguably the most closely monitored substance in modern society outside of nuclear arms. These are the obvious facts that were not dealt with before the pandemic, and have now become problematic in the face of thousands of new cases of Covid-19 in every major state every day. Those of us who work with people with substance use disorder will continue to call for widespread changes, or even some incremental change for that matter, because we cannot continue to allow ignorance to be the reason we do not see changes around the way we treat people for addiction and alcoholism. The pandemic has uncovered glaring weaknesses in the current system, and so when researchers point the issues out, it is imperative that we bring this research to the public. We already know that 2020 was a record setting year for overdose deaths, and I personally believe that would have been the case without a Covid-19 pandemic, but let us at least use this pandemic as a moment to better prepare for the future. The caring people at Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center continue to provide Panama City and the Florida and Alabama regions with the best drug and alcohol rehab in the country. Our medication assisted treatment is certainly a better system for helping opioid use disorder patients than the current methadone clinic system, but I will continue to have hope for change in the methadone clinic system because I know that tens of thousands of patients depend on those facilities for treatment of this terrible disease of addiction.

By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at TACannonWriting@gmail.com)


References

KUMAR, N. et al. Substance use and substance use disorder, in relation to COVID-19: protocol for a scoping review. Systematic reviews, [s. l.], v. 10, n. 1, p. 48, 2021. DOI 10.1186/s13643-021-01605-9. Disponível em: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mnh&AN=33536070&authtype=geo&geocustid=s8475741&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Acesso em: 29 mar. 2021.