The Therapy Beat

The Therapy Beat

The Effects of COVID-19 on Addiction Treatment

By Chris Lyford

November/December 2020

Andrew Tatarsky is done with coronavirus jokes, like the ubiquitous one about “quarantinis.” How do you make one? The same way you make a regular martini, except you drink it in your house alone.

In the house. Alone.

For Tatarksy, who’s spent more than three decades working as a counselor and psychologist specializing in addiction treatment, it hits a little too close to home. After all, he says, that’s exactly what’s going on with a large percentage of the 250 patients his practice is treating right now. They’re at home, alone and isolated. They’re anxious or depressed. Maybe a spouse or relative who lives with them has triggered an old trauma. Suddenly, they’re drinking or using again.

“I worry that we’re going to see a horrific increase in drug-related problems,” Tatarksy says. “Even people who’ve been stable for 20 years are now returning to substance abuse. Entire lives have been swept away.”

Although data are still rolling in, plenty of evidence suggests that the coronavirus outbreak has caused a spike in cases of substance abuse, relapses, and addiction-related deaths—fatalities, it’s worth noting, that aren’t being counted toward the coronavirus death toll. According to the national public health group Well Being Trust, these “deaths of despair,” as they’re sometimes called,…

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