CIRCLEVILLE — For several citizens in Ohio, drug treatment assistance are some of the essential services for those who are struggling with addiction. One organization focussing on substance use disorders conducted a study looking at how services have changed in the new age of coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to Rehabilitation Care Group Clinic Manager Nikki Williams, prior to the state’s pandemic orders, patients would regularly come into the facility typically one to two times a month. Newcomers were also fully brought into programs sometimes the first day they come to the facility.

“Prior to [COVID-19] [we were] pretty accessible,” Turner told The Circleville Herald.

With two facilities located apart from one another around the City of Circleville, if one patient could not get services, they would be referred to the other location, according to Turner. But with limited in-person interactions, some of those referrals could not take place.

According to the clinic manager, there was an uptick in needed services during these uncertain times. Additionally, she stated that there was definitely some patient who had relapses and needed services were limited.

“For sure, a lot more mental health and counsel sessions than average,” Turner commented. “Patients that normally were pretty stable with mental health were calling in and getting advice and counsel… on how to deal with so much idle time.”

She added that with a drug addiction, idle time can become an individual’s worst enemy.

“There were definitely relapses during that time,” Turner said.

In order to better understand the impact of the current pandemic, the Addiction Policy Forum conducted a pilot study focussing on individuals with substance abuse disorders (SUD). The organizations conducted its web-based survey with 1,079 SUD patients answering questions, as well as responses.

There were an additional 533 individuals who partially completed the survey. The title for the survey was COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Patients, Families and Individuals in Recovery from Substance Use Disorders.

According to the key findings of the COVID-19 survey overview, 20 percent of those who answered the questions recorded to have an increase in substance use since the initial conception of the pandemic.

One in three respondents, roughly 34 percent, reported changes in treatment services or recovery services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, 14 percent reported being unable to access much needed services.

Approximately three percent of respondents noted having a non-fatal overdose with one percent reporting a fatal overdose since the start of the pandemic. The Addiction Policy Forum shared that the South Atlantic region of the United States saw the greatest number and percentage of overdoses.

With all businesses and entertainment attractions closed, it’s no wonder why some individuals’ happiness was affected by the pandemic. The top emotions being reported during the survey showed 62 percent of respondents saying they were worried, 51 percent saying they were experiencing sadness, 51 percent reported to be fearful and 42 percent said they were experiencing loneliness.

The organization also stated that 87 percent of those who reported disruption to services also reported to have emotional changes since the start of the pandemic, compared to 72 percent of those who did not report access disruptions.

Additionally, 48 percent of patients and families stated that they feared becoming infected with COVID-19, which was a top concern. Other concerns included spreading the virus, 46 percent, and social isolation, 40 percent.

With every study, there are some caveats and limitations. For the Addiction Policy Forum, respondents to the survey were predominantly white translating to 88 percent of participants. The survey also saw answers from individuals who were non-hispanic, 88 percent, female, 66 percent, over the age of 26, 95 percent, as well as more than half had college degrees or higher.

“Findings should be interpreted within that context and may not represent the broader community of those impacted by SUD,” the Addiction Policy Forum stated.

The organization also mentioned that the survey was designed to work as a rapid response of the impacts of COVID-19 on those within the SUD community. It intends to provide larger representative studies in the future to identify individual, social, cultural, economic, geographic and other factors, which interact with both SID individuals and COVID-19 as a whole.

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