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Managing Addiction and Work During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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March 27, 2020

Many people are terrified of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). And understandably so, for as much as we’ve learned about this virus over the last few weeks, there are still many unknowns. In the end, it’s important to seek facts from reliable sources and to remain updated.

Practice social distancing. Wash your hands. Disinfect heavily-touched surfaces. And stay home. These are current instructions provided by doctors, leaders, and public health officials.coronavirus addiction and work create stress for man at laptop

But what if you can’t stay home?

What if you have to work outside of your home, not only to continue to provide for your own family, but to provide an essential service to the public? Couple this pressure with battling an addiction or doing your best to maintain your sobriety, and this unprecedented period in the United States may be all too overwhelming.

Coronavirus, Addiction, and Substance Use Disorders

COVID -19 is a respiratory sickness that is highly contagious and is spread from person-to-person contact. For example, the droplets that result from a cough or sneeze can get into the nose or mouth of another individual, thereby infecting them as well.

Coronavirus places those who vape or smoke tobacco or marijuana in a vulnerable position, as it is a virus that attacks the lungs. Those who use opioids and methamphetamine are also susceptible because these types of drugs negatively impact both pulmonary and respiratory health. The abuse of substances may potentially affect the immune system, including those suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD). For instance, drinking too much alcohol may compromise the immune system and put a person at risk for pneumonia. Those with weak immune systems are more susceptible to the coronavirus.

Manage Anxiety and Panic at Work

Whether you work as a cashier at a grocery store, a nurse at a hospital, or a food delivery driver, you may have some mixed emotions about your own personal safety while following through on your responsibilities on the job. The risk of contracting COVID-19 and potentially bringing that into your home, thereby exposing your entire household, can incite fear, anxiety, or panic.

It is not uncommon for those struggling with anxiety disorders to abuse alcohol or drugs. And for those in recovery who may also have a co-occurring anxiety disorder, the recent events and news regarding coronavirus may potentially be a trigger. Even having a panic attack under the current circumstances may be an instinctual response for some people. A panic attack is a sudden intense discomfort or fear that peaks within minutes and tends to include a minimum of four of the following multiple symptoms:

  • Chest pain.
  • Palpitations.Person discussing coronavirus addiction and work
  • Fear of dying.
  • Sweating.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Trembling.
  • Feeling of choking.
  • Nausea.
  • Feeling dizzy.
  • Feeling a loss of control.
  • Heat or chill sensation.
  • Feeling of detachment from oneself.
  • Numbness.

Conquering Coronavirus Fears

However, it’s important to have solutions in order to redirect your focus. This way you can get through this pandemic in the most productive way possible without the use of drugs or alcohol.

Tips to manage triggers and emotions:

  • Contact your therapist. Even though they’re more than likely not available in-person due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders, many are seeing their patients virtually.
  • Attend a virtual 12-step group meeting. You will receive the support you need without having to leave the safety of your own home.
  • Focus on the positive consequences of healing and the benefits of recovery.
  • If you feel like you can’t handle your job responsibilities, the circumstances of the coronavirus, and are battling an addiction, contact American Addiction Centers and speak to one of our admissions navigators immediately so that you can get the help that you need. However, in cases of an emergency, dial 911.

Avoiding Relapse During the Coronavirus Pandemic

If you’re currently in recovery, and are feeling triggered by current events, there are some steps you can take to avoid relapse and still remain safe during this period of time.

A few methods for avoiding relapse:

  • Avoid friends/family that use drugs and don’t isolate with these individuals during this pandemic if they are posing a threat to your sobriety. Contact a sober living facility or a close friend/family member that does not use drugs/alcohol in order to follow a stay-at-home order if it applies to you in your state. Additionally, check with your local authorities to find out what you need to do to move yourself from one home to another before you take action. Your sobriety and stopping the spread of the virus are equally important.
  • Create a specific relapse prevention plan and choose an accountability partner to help you to stick to it.
  • Contact your rehab facility to see if they have space for you if you’re bordering on using substances again.
  • Remain on any prescription medications that you’re currently on and check in virtually (or on the phone) with your psychiatrist to ensure you’re on the right track or if you need to adjust your dosage.
  • Discuss your disease with your employer and create solutions to your stressors on the job, especially during this pandemic.

How do I Know I Have a Problem and When to Seek Help?

Sometimes when challenged with an obstacle that feels so personal, it’s not always easy to see the solution. In other words, at times when we are overwhelmed, the situation itself seems to make it even harder to find the answer. So, how do you even know if you need help?

Signs you may have a substance use disorder:

  • Physical dependence.
  • Intense cravings.People at group therapy session discussing coronavirus addiction and work
  • Tolerance (to the substance).
  • Withdrawal symptoms.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors.
  • Financial trouble related to substance use.
  • Drug-seeking behaviors.
  • Willingly isolating oneself in general (not for the purpose of quarantining for the coronavirus).
  • Developing unhealthy relationships.
  • Negligent when it comes to responsibilities.

Final Thoughts

Relapse doesn’t have to be an answer. Coronavirus, although challenging, frustrating, and scary, is also a temporary pandemic. If it feels like the pressure from your job, an addiction, and the virus is too much, American Addiction Centers remains open during this outbreak and we are here to offer treatment and ongoing support. Call one of our admission navigators at 888-971-9086 to get the help you need today!

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