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When 2 epidemics converge: The escalation of opioid use disorder during COVID-19

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 5:09 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - As people across the globe are navigating life during the COVID-19 crisis, those with substance use disorders - including Opioid Use Disorder - are particularly vulnerable. An estimated 2 million people aged 12 or older have an opioid use disorder. Disruptions driven by the pandemic, including unemployment, depression and poverty, are also common triggers of opioid use and relapse - fueling a dual crisis.

Dr. Adam Rubinstein, a physician specializing in the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder, joined the Deep Bench on NewsChannel 7 at 4 on Thursday. He said social isolation is a risk factor for relapse, which can make staying on a recovery track more difficult during the pandemic. Although it is vital to maintain a physical distance from others in order to halt the spread of COVID-19, it is also particularly important to maintain social bonds during this time of increased stress. Social isolation is preventing people from accessing mental and emotional support from support groups, which are critical for those managing their recovery. Additionally, patients who are in recovery are at risk of relapsing since the pandemic has made it increasingly difficult to go to clinics and obtain medications to treat their addiction.

Even prior to the pandemic, access to treatment was a challenge for many who need it. A U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy report from earlier this year revealed a tremendous gap - only 3.7 million of the 21.2 million Americans needing treatment for a substance use disorder actually received any kind of treatment.

Dr. Rubinstein said now, more than ever, tools, education and resources are needed for those who are struggling.

Ashlynn, a mom and HR professional who for years struggled with mental illness and addiction joined Dr. Rubinstein to share her story from her road to recovery from OUD.

Learn more: Rethinkopioidaddiction.com

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