The Added Stress of COVID-19 and Its Effects on Substance Use Disorders

Nelson Hayden, leader of The Doorway in Keene

During the past few months, COVID-19 has changed our lives in so many ways—social distancing, working from home, homeschooling children, and economic insecurity or unemployment—resulting in increased stress, uncertainty, isolation, and loneliness. For a person in recovery or in active addiction from a substance use disorder (SUD), any of those feelings can be a trigger that leads to relapse. That is why it’s more important than ever to connect with those who need support to let them know help is available, even during the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People with an SUD misuse potentially harmful substances, such as opioids or alcohol, to the extent that it interferes with their well-being and/or ability to participate in daily activities such as work, school, and family life. Substance use disorders are treatable illnesses that can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, employment status, income, or education level. No group or individual is immune to the reach of SUD. Starting with appropriate treatment and support, many people recover from SUD.

As one of nine locations across New Hampshire, The Doorway at Cheshire Medical Center serves the southwest corner of the Granite State by connecting individuals to various resources such as residential treatment facilities, outpatient treatment services, primary care/emergency medical care, mental health professionals, peer-to-peer recovery support, and medication-assisted treatment. For individuals awaiting treatment, The Doorway also provides interim support including brief intermittent therapy and recovery support.

Now at its new location at 24 Railroad Street in the heart of Keene’s downtown area, staff members at The Doorway want people to know they are open and available during this very stressful time. To access help for yourself or a loved one in New Hampshire, simply call 211 to connect with The Doorway NH.

The opposite of addiction is connection. The Doorway is here to connect with individuals both virtually and in person. The more people who know our support exists and how to access it, the more people can be helped. It’s more important than ever to spread our message about resources available here.

Nelson Hayden, MA, MBA, LADC, who heads up the site in Keene

According to Hayden most people who seek help from The Doorway are referred there by a medical provider, family member, friend, partner, co-worker, or boss.

“These past few months have been some of the most challenging periods for so many.  More than ever, during COVID-19 the need for allies for individuals with a Substance Use Disorder or Opioid Use Disorder is even more crucial. It’s important for us to communicate that The Doorway is open and safe since the message many have heard is that establishments are closed,” says Hayden. “Our doors have been and continue to be open. We are using technology when possible, and ensuring the health and safety of clients and staff members.”

Despite the many negatives COVID-19 has caused, one area that has been strengthened is the opportunity for emotional connection through virtual meetings. All of us need to practice physical distancing to flatten the curve. Regrettably, physical distancing means that sponsors, regular AA meetings, and other in-person recovery supports are not as available as they were before COVID-19 struck. Physical distancing makes people feel more isolated and lonely; however, it does not require people to practice emotional distancing. This is very important for individuals with a Substance Use Disorder.

“There are now hundreds of virtual meetings available. The Doorway offers support to help individuals determine what meetings may work best,” says Hayden. In addition to emotional connection through virtual meetings, The Doorway also helps people set goals and find direction in life then create and follow a plan for success. “This pandemic is disrupting plans and goals. The Doorway staff is here to help assess where you are and help you get where you want to be. People often feel unheard; we are here to listen. You are not alone. For many people, addiction is a daily reality. We can help. Whether you are seeking help for yourself or a loved one, or are looking for information, you’ve come to the right place.”

It’s important to remember that an SUD is a diagnosable medical condition and can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, employment status, income, or education level. No group or individual is immune to the reach of an SUD. Starting with appropriate treatment and support, many people recover from SUDs.

If you or someone you know is experiencing an addiction-related crisis, call 211 now. For more information, visit The Doorway