CORONAVIRUS UTAH

Addicts At Higher Risk Of Relapse During COVID-19 Isolation

Apr 14, 2020, 7:55 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The forced isolation of coronavirus quarantine is especially tough on people struggling with addiction. The loneliness and upheaval can send addicts right back into destructive habits.

Therapists are working hard to help them maintain sobriety.

For many years, Jonathan Creager hid his addiction well. He even played guitar in a successful band.

“You’re kind of building a dam, and that dam starts to crumble,” said Creager, who lives in Salt Lake City.

Eventually, it caught up with him.

“I alienated my ex-wife and my two daughters, and I created a rift between people who actually cared about me,” he said.

It’s a story Monique Bouton knows well.

“I was addicted to opiates,” said Bouton, who lives in Rose Park. “I started with pills and then I went a darker route: heroin.”

She said while she’s doing well, without her support community, it’s now harder to stay clean.

“I’ve talked to a couple of friends, and their probation has been suspended so no drug tests,” Bouton said. “I feel like a lot of people are taking that opportunity to run back toward the negative.”

“We’re not seeing each other. It’s harder to check in,” Creager said.

Experts said that some people have given up altogether on their recovery. Isolation is a hallmark of severe addiction, and the pandemic is keeping many people who need help away.

“We know from years of research that the more connected people are, the more likely they are to maintain their recovery,” said Misty McIntyre Goodsell, LCSW, director of research and development at the Odyssey House.

She said that without support meetings and in-person therapy, addicts are at high risk of relapse.

“If you don’t have that connection, what you have is a perfect storm for people feeling overwhelmed, feeling stressed, feeling depressed, and think using is an option again,” she said.

To keep them on track, the staff at Odyssey House have been holding telehealth meetings. Creager helps facilitate one of those meetings.

“We’re still holding accountability for everyone there, and their different roles, and their behavior,” Creager said.

“Making sure that they are connecting in any way that they can, even if it’s just text messages or phone calls, or joining a support group online,” McIntyre Goodsell said.

She urged friends and family to reach out.

“This is probably not a time to push too hard, but it is a time to just check in with people as much as possible, and let them know we care about them,” she said.

“If we can’t see each other, we are a phone call away,” Creager said.

Experts said people who live with addicts should keep rescue drugs like naloxone handy in case of overdose.

For more information, visit odysseyhouse.org or call Odyssey House at 801-322-3222.

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Addicts At Higher Risk Of Relapse During COVID-19 Isolation