The COVID-19 pandemic is posing significant challenges while also providing unique opportunities for patients with substance use disorders (SUD), a leading expert says.
Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), said the pandemic has accelerated the use of telemedicine, making it easier for patients with SUD to access treatment. It has also led to the proliferation of more mental health hotlines, which is critical since the vast majority of these patients have comorbid mental illness.
In addition, COVID-19 has resulted in increased availability of “alternative” peer support mechanisms via cellphones or computers to aid individuals’ sobriety.
Volkow spoke at the virtual American Psychiatric Association (APA) Spring Highlights Meeting 2020, which is replacing the organization’s canceled Annual Meeting.
While methadone clinics have had to close during the pandemic, making it challenging for those on medically assisted treatment to receive methadone or buprenorphine, some of the rules and regulations have been relaxed in order to make these medications accessible without the need for in-person attendance at a clinic.