The Pandemic Has Brought a New Urgency for Addiction Counseling

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new urgency to the need for addiction counseling. This is because the pandemic has had an especially tough impact on those battling addiction. 

The stresses associated with job losses and financial worries, loneliness and the absence of structure—all of which accompanied the onset of the pandemic—can worsen mental health issues, especially addiction. And while the social isolation that came with sheltering in place or quarantining may have been beneficial to some individuals as they were removed from situations that can present temptations or trigger relapses, overall, the pandemic created a perfect storm for substance abuse and mental health issues.

The numbers are grim:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of American adults who reported symptoms of anxiety or depression between April 2020 and February 2021 was 27 percent higher than the previous year. 
  • The same data showed that emergency room visits for drug overdoses increased by 36 percent during the same time period.
  • The CDC also reported that as of June 2020, 13 percent of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use in order to cope with the stress of emotions associated with COVID-19.
  • In 2020, more than 40 U.S. states reported increases in opioid-related deaths, according to the American Medical Association.
  • Alcohol consumption has also been on the rise. A survey conducted by The Harris Poll in spring 2021 revealed that 17 percent of respondents reported that they had engaged in “heavy drinking” during the previous 30 days. 

While these statistics paint a picture of an environment in which those with addictions are at risk, additional factors also have contributed to making the past two years an especially challenging period for them.

Factors Contributing to a More Challenging Environment for People With Addictions

COVID was more severe for addicts. Those with addictions were not only at a higher risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus, but also were at a higher risk of requiring hospitalization and of mortality.

Social distancing was especially hard for those struggling with addiction. While social distancing may have removed those with addictions from high-risk situations and environments, for many, isolation contributed to intense feelings of loneliness, which exacerbated mental health issues and contributed to substance abuse. Social distancing also meant that they could not attend live meetings of support groups and in-person addiction counseling appointments, which many had come to rely on pre-pandemic.  

Access to support, counseling and life-saving drugs was limited. While, in many cases, in-person meetings with support groups and counselors were replaced with telemedicine, Zoom meetings and other digital interactions, not all individuals had access to these platforms. Additionally, during the pandemic, as physical offices were closed and many healthcare organizations shifted their resources away from addiction counseling and to addressing COVID-19, many programs for those with addictions stopped accepting new patients. And for those who needed access to life-saving drugs in the event of an overdose, both access to these drugs and people to administer them were absent or limited during the pandemic.

Increase in Need for Addiction Counseling Professionals

As the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic begins to ease and things begin to return to some form of normal, counseling professionals will find that they are needed more than ever before to help those struggling with addiction also return their lives to something resembling normal. Those pursuing a master’s degree in addiction counseling will find that they are needed more than ever. 

Get started in a career that makes a difference with Carlow University’s master’s in addiction counseling program. The CACREP-accredited program will train you to work with adults and adolescents experiencing one or more addictions, like alcohol, prescription drugs or illicit drugs, in a variety of settings. Upon completion, you will be eligible to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and get the 180 hours of required addiction-specific coursework to become certified as an Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC). 

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