With the COIVD-19 curve flattening and lockdown restrictions easing in recent months, many people around the world are beginning to feel renewed hope for the future. But while there is cause for optimism, the impact the pandemic has had on our collective mental health and wellbeing will likely be felt for some time.
This is especially true among those who have an addiction. The stress and anxiety of the crisis has exacerbated substance misuse problems among at-risk people, and the road to recovery can be especially challenging in the current climate.
As a community service worker (CSW), you may find yourself providing support to those with an addiction, as well as their families. Here’s what you need to know about how the pandemic has impacted people.
People Who Have Recovered Are at Greater Risk of Relapse During the Pandemic
Some professionals working with those who have an addiction have reported seeing an increase in relapses since the pandemic began.
Many people in recovery rely on the support of those around them, including family, friends, and addiction support groups, to help maintain their sobriety. Social distancing measures may have limited their contact with this network, increasing feelings of isolation and loneliness. Maintaining routines is also often important for those in recovery, and the closure of workplaces, exercise facilities, and other amenities may have made this difficult.
The pressure and anxiety that this can cause may lead to a higher risk of relapse, especially if combined with added pressures such as losing their job, as well as fears over their general health and wellness. As a result, CSWs need to be especially mindful when working with clients who have had an addiction in the past, and watch for any signs that they may be falling back into old habits.
Substance Misuse Has Increased During the Crisis
While those with existing issues face huge challenges during the pandemic, even those with no history of addiction may be at higher risk. Many people have turned to addictive substances as a way to cope with the stress, isolation, and boredom of the pandemic.
In Canada, for example, over 20% of those aged 18-54 have reported that they are drinking more alcohol at home than before. If these people are unable to manage and limit their alcohol intake, they could be in danger of developing dependency issues.
This is arguably an even greater concern among those who have lost their jobs or face additional financial pressure due to the economic impact of the crisis. If you are working with clients in this situation as a CSW, it’s important to use the knowledge you have gained during your community services worker program to spot the signs of addiction early and intervene before the problem worsens.
How Community Services Worker Program Graduates Can Help Those with an Addiction
One of the most valuable things you can do to help someone with an addiction due to the pandemic is to make sure they know what support is available to them. In May, treatment providers in the UK noted that many people with addiction issues were not seeking help due to the mistaken assumption that rehabilitation services had shut down.
These kinds of misconceptions are likely to be common among people until lockdown measures have been lifted completely, so it’s vital to make sure your clients are well-informed. Encouraging them to seek virtual alternatives to services that have been shut down, such as AA/NA meetings, could also make a big difference.
In your capacity as a CSW, you can also be a tremendous resource yourself. Providing counselling services, helping clients find practical solutions to any issues they might be facing, and even just providing non-judgmental support and advice may help your clients and their loved ones to work through their addiction issues.
Community services worker careers that involve helping those with addictions can be very challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. By giving people the tools they need to overcome their addictions, you are giving them and their loved ones the chance to live the healthy, happy lives they deserve. In these troubled times, that can be more valuable than ever.
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