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The COVID-19 pandemic is causing an increase in relapses. Here are signs to look for.
Being aware of this issue is a big first step in helping vulnerable communities (such as those struggling with addiction) combat relapse during this pandemic.
- Many mental health and addiction professionals are worried that the lockdown, quarantine and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will cause a surge in relapses of individuals who are struggling with sobriety at this time.
- Stress, loneliness, isolation, boredom and a lack of support for the addiction community are the biggest triggers for relapse right now.
- However, being aware of these triggers and supporting those in your life struggling with addiction through the help of online platforms can be a way to combat relapses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 19.7 million Americans (aged 12+) struggled with a substance use disorder in 2017 alone. That same year, statistics show 1 in 8 adults struggled with both alcohol and drug-use disorders at the same time.
Now, in 2020, we're dealing with a global pandemic, and many health care professionals worry these numbers will rise, as the stress and negative mental health impact of the pandemic could potentially trigger relapses in people who have reached sobriety.
COVID-19 and addiction: why are relapses more common during a pandemic?
Stress, declining mental health, lack of community support and boredom can all trigger relapse - being aware of this can help prevent it.
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Stress and declining mental health can contribute to relapse potential
Dayry Hulkow, the primary therapist at Arete Recovery Center in Pembroke Pines, Florida explains, "We have already seen relapses happening, moments of crisis, obviously a lot of mental health issues associated with the addiction and all the stresses that are going on in the world right now."
Hulkow, like many other addiction specialists, fears the pandemic will grow the rate of relapse of those struggling with addictions all around the world.
Community supports sobriety, isolation triggers relapse
The idea that community is a large part (maybe the most important part) of maintaining a sober lifestyle has been proven - and with many areas of the world on lockdown with orders not to attend gatherings or support groups, the fear of relapse is a well-placed one.
Licensed mental health counselor Denny Kolsch explains the issue with lockdown orders and addiction recovery, "The message we are receiving is to stay away from people. Isolate. Don't be around people - and for people that are in recovery, that's a recipe for disaster."
Boredom and limited access to the outside world can cause negative feelings that often lead to relapse
"Also, there is boredom," explains Hulkow, "having to stay at home with very limited access to the outside world, hobbies, meetings, and employment can be triggering as well."
Adding to that being quarantined in close-quarters with family members or friends, there could be family disputes or arguments that are also triggering for people who are recovering from addiction.
Relapses are common throughout the journey to sobriety from drugs and/or alcohol - in fact, Addiction Center states that up to 60% of individuals struggling with addiction will have at least one relapse before reaching sobriety.
This is especially more likely during a time where people may be isolated at home, feeling anxious by the news or fearful for their health or the health of their loved ones.
Family members and friends of loved ones who struggle with addiction should be particularly mindful during stressful times such as a pandemic, as there may be signs that your loved one is struggling and nearing a relapse.
Some signs of relapse during a pandemic can include:
- Change in eating or sleeping habits
- Declining hygiene
- Lying or manipulative behavior
- Glamorizing past drug/alcohol use
- Bottling up emotion and/or mood swings that are unpredictable
- Feelings or messages of hopelessness ("I just don't see a point in…")
How to cope with the relapse potential during a pandemic
Online support groups, AA/NA meetings and virtual coffee dates can be a great way to stay in touch with members of the community and support each other during this stressful time.
Photo by Nadia Snopek on Shutterstock
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a lot of problems for the general population, and these problems can be amplified and magnified by at-risk populations such as people struggling with addiction.
The shock of going through a pandemic can cause confusion, loneliness, panic, stress, and fear - all of which can be triggers for relapse. Adding to that being isolated or quarantined in your home (either by yourself or with others) can bring on boredom, irritation, and feelings of inadequacy, again - all of which can be contributing factors to a relapse.
How to cope with addiction during quarantine:
- Alternative self-care methods (meditation, reflection, journaling) can help you find a new perspective and stay in tune with your feelings, which makes it much easier to spot (and prevent) a relapse.
- Maintain contact with your outside supports for sobriety - attend virtual AA/NA meetings, phone hotlines, or keep in regular contact with your sober friends to support each other. An entrepreneur based in New York City has launched an app called Loosid, which is dedicated to providing hotlines and online services to assist those struggling with addiction during this time. As of April 2020, the app has seen over 60,000 users - the app creator, M.J Gottlieb, tells ABC News that there has been a 93.8% increase in active users during the pandemic.
- Create a routine for yourself to occupy your mind and body, preventing boredom which can cause overthinking and stressful thoughts.
- Staying active or creating an exercise schedule in your home can provide you with a rush of feel-good hormones (endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline) that can help your body stay healthy during the quarantine.
Awareness is key in preventing a relapse and maintaining positive mental health
While social distancing and lockdown measures have been put into place for very valid reasons, we simply cannot ignore the massive impact this has on our more vulnerable populations (people struggling with homelessness, addictions, and mental health conditions). The best way to support each other during this difficult time is to use online platforms to stay in contact and reconnect, keeping in mind that this is a very difficult time for some people.
Being aware that the loved one in your life who has struggled with addiction in the past may relapse could be key to helping them stay sober.
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The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A study looks at the ingredients of a good scare.
Catching fear in a bottle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYyNzg1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTQwMTcyMn0.WtpJ1E_dhK2o09fBpKARynj4_p5NXeklgsXsbd7xr9w/img.jpg?width=980" id="8ff51" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f10dd9188b173f4a36e85e9325507c6b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Photo Boards/Unsplash<p>Previous studies have tracked physiological signs of fear arousal, but none have established a one-to-one correlation between that arousal and specific, actual fear events.</p><p>Andersen says that much of the research has been conducted in lab settings with weak fear stimuli, observing subjects as they experience things like scary videos. Scares in these situations tend to be weak and difficult to measure. Even harder to track in these situations is the link between enjoyment and fear. </p>
Eyes everywhere<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/109695164" width="100%" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="267ba87cfb8591ed5830499574d2272a"></iframe><p>Andersen and his colleagues conducted their experiments at <a href="https://dystopia.dk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Dystopia</a> Haunted House, a commercial attraction in Vejle, Denmark constructed in an old, run-down factory. The Recreational Fear Lab has a long-standing partnership with the spook shack.</p><p>They outfitted 100 volunteers with heart monitors and sent them on their terrifying way through the 50-room horror mansion. The facility incorporates a number of fright mechanisms including frequent jump scares in which a sudden threat takes a visitor by surprise.</p><p>Researchers surreptitiously observed their participants on closed-circuit video as they made their way through the attraction. They tracked each individual's scares, scoring them for intensity according to their visible reactions. After exiting the attraction, individuals self-reported their experiences in the haunted house.</p><p>Combining these self-reports with observer notes and each participant's heart-rate data gave the researchers subjective, behavioral, and physiological insights into the ways in which fear is experienced, and when it's a good thing or not.</p>
A pair of inverted U-shapes<p>In analyzing their data, the researchers saw two separate inverted u-shape curves. One depicted participants' enjoyment based on their self-reports and observed behavior. A similar u-curve was detected in their heart rates showing that just the right amount of heartbeat acceleration is associated with fun, but too much is too much. It's the terror Goldilocks zone.</p><p>Says Andersen, "If people are not very scared, they do not enjoy the attraction as much, and the same happens if they are too scared. Instead, it seems to be the case that a 'just-right' amount of fear is central for maximizing enjoyment."</p><p>The research suggests that being scared is enjoyable when it represents just a quick minor physiological deviation from one's normal state. When it goes on too long, however, or triggers too severe a physiological change, it becomes disturbing. Game over.</p><p>Andersen notes that this is not dissimilar to the factors known to make interpersonal play enjoyable: just the right amount of uncertainty and surprise. These are, maybe not coincidentally, also the ingredients of a successful joke.</p>
A meteorite that smashed into a frozen lake in Michigan may explain the origins of life on Earth, finds study.
- A new paper reveals a meteorite that crashed in Michigan in 2018 contained organic matter.
- The findings support the panspermia theory and could explain the origins of life on Earth.
- The organic compounds on the meteorite were well-preserved.
Meteor streaks through Michigan sky<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="80b7f30820153b35fc515592d7475f53"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EPu2qnqMYBo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The meteorite that smashed into Strawberry Lake carried pristine extraterrestrial organic compounds.
Credit: Field Museum