North Texas addiction treatment centers are working hard to keep facilities open during the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal: to give some of the highest-risk patients access to medications that treat opioid addiction.
The opioid epidemic hasn’t been supplanted by the pandemic. Rather, the pandemic has worsened an already existing crisis. In the Dallas area, the pandemic is resulting in an increased number of people in recovery who are relapsing, local clinicians say. At the same time, the pandemic is making it harder for clinics to provide patients with the support they need.
“Social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus may lead to more individuals using drugs alone,” Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said recently in a blog post. “Social distancing has also made it harder to access behavioral treatment and recovery supports.”
At several Dallas clinics, managers say they have been overwhelmed by cases involving overdoses and relapses. But experts believe that the recent relaxation of regulations for methadone — a medication used to help recovering patients with withdrawal symptoms — might prevent overdose deaths.
Methadone interrupts the cycle of withdrawal, craving and relapsing use by blocking proteins in the brain called “mu” opioid receptors. And patients who take opioids — like heroin and certain painkillers — won’t be able to feel those drugs’ effects while on methadone because synthetic opioids bind to these receptors.
Increasing drug use
At the start of the pandemic, most patients getting treatment at the Anti-Aging and Longevity Center in Dallas had clean urine samples. But over time, more of the samples came back positive for other drugs, including opioids, benzodiazepines (or tranquilizers) and methamphetamine, said Veronica Reyes, one of the center’s counselors.
Trauma increases substance use, and patients with opioid addictions report more trauma throughout their lifetimes than people without opioid addictions, according to a study published in Psychological Reports. Other studies in BMC Health Services Research and Medical Care Research and Review suggest economic downturns that reduce house prices, like the Great Recession, also lead to more opioid use and opioid-related deaths.
Source: Dallas News