The Impact of Online Support Groups: Addiction during a Pandemic

By Charlotte Arehart

With research showing that the rates of substance abuse are increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for those who are struggling to seek help. Typically, support groups are a great way for those who suffer from substance abuse disorder to seek help. However, with CDC regulations as well as individuals’ anxieties about catching COVID-19, it is difficult for addicts to find support groups. Research has even shown that individuals struggling with substance abuse disorder are at higher risk of contracting the Corona virus than those who do not suffer. Face-to-face interactions are not always possible during the pandemic, especially not in large groups. This has resulted in the dawn of online support groups. The idea is that individuals can get the support that they need in a safe social environment online, perhaps over Zoom, without risking contracting COVID-19. But just like any other major change, online support groups come with its side-effects, whether they be positive or negative.

Online support groups definitely have some benefits for individuals who attend. Some of these include:

  1. Attendees continue to receive support during pandemic
  2. Meet new people from across the country
  3. Protection from the virus
  4. Discuss issues openly and honestly

While all of these effects seem great at first, there are certainly some negative aspects of attending support groups online, including:

  1. Online meetings are not as effective as in-person meetings
  2. Lack of conversation
  3. Lack of connectivity (not all areas have access to Wi-Fi!)
  4. Low engagement levels

Ultimately, it is difficult to say whether or not online support groups are outright a good or a bad thing. It ultimately comes down to an individual’s preference. Luckily, with infection rates declining in the United States and social regulations beginning to ease, in-person support groups are likely to begin meeting again soon, if they have not already!

If you or someone you know needs substance abuse support throughout the pandemic, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

Sources:

https://www.apadivisions.org/division-49/publications/newsletter/group-psychologist/2021/03/virtual-group-benefits

Image Source: https://www.beyondmybattle.org/support-groups

Increased Drug and Alcohol Use during the Stay at Home Order

By Eleanor Kim

The Coronavirus pandemic has left the whole world isolated with very little to do aside from school or work. As the stay at home orders continue, individuals have been forced to find other means of coping or simply passing the time. Some individuals have found coping mechanisms that have ignited newfound purpose during such bleak times; however, others have embarked on less than beneficial pastimes, turning to drugs and alcohol as a means of “getting through” the pandemic. Cases of substance use disorder, or SUD, have skyrocketed since the official declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic with cases of patients who have experienced overdoses and other complications related to substance abuse increasing as well. In a recent survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 13.3% of respondents stated that they have either started or increased substance use in order to cope with the stress and emotions caused by COVID-19 and the subsequent national emergency. With the world in such an unstable and worrisome state, it is not surprising to see individuals seek comfort in any way that they can, especially as those individuals face new and or preexisting stressors and anxieties through isolation.

As the pandemic continues, the surging mental health and substance abuse epidemics have shown to go hand in hand with one another. In fact, throughout the pandemic, there has been a 62% increase in worry, a 51% increase in sadness, a 51% increase in fear, and a 42% increase in loneliness. It was also revealed that within the past year, there has been a 32% increase for non-prescribed fentanyl, a 20% increase for methamphetamine, a 12.5% increase for heroine, a 10% increase for cocaine, as well as an 18% increase in suspected drug overdoses. These increases have not gone unnoticed. Those that already struggled with substance abuse or other mental health disorders have found stay at home orders increasingly difficult given the limited access to their usual treatment and support groups. Those who wish to begin receiving professional help with their substance use have had harder times finding adequate care given the decrease in in- and out-patient support and treatment over the past year. These limitations have fed into the increases in mental health struggles and SUD cases, leaving those who have been affected feeling desperate and out of control.

Substance abuse is not the answer to these difficult and isolating times. There is still hope for those who wish to seek other, more benevolent means of coping with the pandemic and for those who wish to begin treatment for their substance use disorder. Telehealth is one way that individuals with SUD, or other destructive coping mechanisms, can begin receiving professional help and therapy. Counselors and therapists are available to talk with you or anyone you know who may be dealing with substance use disorders during this time.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Resources:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2020/09/addressing-unique-challenges-covid-19-people-in-recovery

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7219362/

https://www.ehstoday.com/covid19/article/21139889/drug-abuse-on-the-rise-because-of-the-coronavirus

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm

Image Source:

https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/covid-crisis-exacerbating-lgbtq-alcohol-abuse-studies-find-n1257008