Every year since 1989, SAMHSA, or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has marked September as Addiction Awareness Month. Please visit the Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center Facebook Group for some notes on how we are celebrating this important month in the world of substance abuse recovery. Now on to today’s story on Covid-19 and the Addiction Epidemic, and how we are viewing the interactions of these two huge health crises.
The Louisiana Addiction Research Center (LARC) recently put out a PDF of their findings and insights on the Covid-19 pandemic and how that new pandemic has affected our ongoing addiction epidemic in the United States.
To quote the LARC, “Although all of America faces these issues, the deeply rooted and historically disposed communities of Louisiana are disproportionately vulnerable to addiction.” I believe the Florida Panhandle and many parts of Alabama and Texas fit this description as well, so while all the United States struggles with these issues, we do have serious problems in the South. We deal with serious shortcomings in public funding for people to seek treatment when facing various behavioral health crises in the Southern U.S. and many of these issues get more serious as the areas become more rural. I have talked many times about missing public services for people in rural areas, but in the U.S. many of the health services our communities rely on every day are from private companies, and those are probably even more lacking in the more rural areas of the South, including near our facility in Panama City, Florida.
LARC is not a treatment center, they measure and study addiction. This leaves us with a good opportunity to use their research to educate our patients. According to LARC, “The effects of this pandemic are being felt most acutely in communities of low socioeconomic means,Communities of color, inner city communities, and rural underserved communities.” I only mentioned the last of those, but it is important to remember that urban poor communities and rural poor communities are suffering from the same issues, the people are simply more spread out and physically isolated in the rural areas. This is both a funding issue, as poor communities have less money to face these health crises, and an issue of ongoing health disparities in different populations of people, as poor people were less healthy and more at risk from the beginning of the pandemic. Now we add the fact that both rural communities and inner-city poor communities are two of the most likely places to have low vaccination rates. We start to see how many of the 1,500 daily deaths from Covid-19 are being felt in poor communities, and it is most of the deaths from Covid-19 nationally at this point. The poor areas are the places where people are most likely to have a family member that has died from Covid-19 and that is only getting worse in our poor communities if we look at families already struggling with ongoing substance abuse problems. These problems always compound. Not just on a macro level, but in the lives of individuals most vulnerable to these various problems in health and mental health.
The LARC is just beginning to research the effects of methamphetamine and opioids used in conjunction (Called a “speedball” colloquially) and whether a “speedball” of meth and fentanyl or heroin can be even more damaging to the cardiovascular system than methamphetamine alone. This is important research in a rural area near Panama City, Florida as we see increased use of methamphetamines compared to other areas of the United States. The LARC would like to see research produce better ways to fix the damage caused to the heart by certain drugs. Oftentimes, in the recovery and substance abuse treatment field, we feel like we can fix some of the emotional damage from drugs and alcohol but some of the physical damage is permanent. LARC would like to produce research that helps fix damage to both emotional and physical health. The LARC also supports finding more compassionate ways to deal with addiction than how we deal with addiction in our society currently. This means a less criminalized identity for addiction in general, and less emphasis on punishing people for using drugs when they are suffering from addiction. I support LARC in their efforts to make addiction treatment more compassionate. Louisiana State University at Shreveport will partner with LARC on the heart and vascular damage research project.
More significant and more pointed data will make its way to us as the pandemic continues and hopefully, we start to recover fully from this Covid-19 pandemic. It is important to understand what the two epidemics look like and how these problems compound, even though this research simply continues the theme of poor communities suffering the most from all these major societal issues. Funding will ultimately be a huge part of the public discussion on how to best deal with the ongoing addiction crisis because people in crisis will always need support from those of us who are not going through a crisis now. This is how humans must help each other. We all need support sometimes. If you or a loved one is facing a family crisis from addiction or substance abuse, please call us today at Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center or visit us at Our Website.
By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at TACannonWriting@gmail.com)
GOEDERS, N.; PATTERSON, J.; MURNANE, K. Insight from the Louisiana Addiction Research Center (Larc) of the Impact of Covid-19 on Addiction. SB Magazine, [s. l.], v. 21, n. 9, p. 16–18, 2020. Disp: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,geo,url,ip&geocustid=s8475741&db=f6h&AN=146233359&site=eds-live&scope=site. Acesso em: 15 set. 2021.