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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2 Comments

Saturday, December 12, 2020 3:12:49 PM | posted by Rev. Carlene Appel
Very insightful article. I am finding more and more positives coming out of the Corona pandemic in the way of innovation. -It took a pandemic to get the gov’t onboard with reimbursing telehealth/video visits. -Those of us who travel to the client’s location can retain more of our clients via GoogleMeet, Zoom, Teams, WebEx, etc., and reduce wear and tear, fill-ups, help the environment, and free up time that would have been spent driving. -Churches, particularly those smaller congregations who are hanging on to 1950’s style worship and shunning technology have been obligated to enter the 21st century, with online worship, Bible study, small groups and the like. There is increased opportunities for visitors online, not just locally, but from anywhere in the state, country and the world. People who wouldn’t drive far to go to church now don’t have to, just click on the meeting link. -Thinking outside the box which previously might have gotten a manager’s stern rebuke and a write-up are more welcome now in ways of reaching out to our clients and marketing to potential clients as clinics and private practices can no longer park themselves in a “we’ve always done it that way” mindset. -Private practice counselors like myself are being made to reflect on and assess the way we are doing things and be open to change. The key here is looking at this brave new world as an opportunity for new ways of being, rather than viewing it through the lenses of doom and gloom. That being said, the toughest part of pandemic is the inability to see my Hospice patients in facilities. They are all on lockdown. In particular my patients living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of Dementia (Major Neurocognitive Disorders). They do not understand why suddenly they are restricted to their rooms away from everyone. Staff looks scary and unfamiliar in their gowns/gloves/face masks and shields. Family members are no longer coming to see them because they aren’t allowed to. Those who are hard of hearing or deaf can no longer read lips unless someone has a mask with a window. Meanwhile, families are heartbroken because they can’t see their loved ones. I’m spending more time on the phone listening, teaching, and emotionally supporting them. -People are holding off on seeking LTC and ALC options for their loved ones who they are no longer able to care for because they fear that they may never see their loved ones alive again due to the increased risk of their loved one for contracting and possibly succumbing to COVID19. The upside to that is being able to bring in professional caregivers and home health personnel and keep their loved one at home and able to control exposure to COVID19. Options and opportunities do exist if we are willing to open our eyes and see what could be possible.

Saturday, December 12, 2020 12:17:54 PM | posted by Sarah Buino
I appreciate this article and want to highlight the need for a more collective idea of care. Private practice therapists and individual programs don't have all the answers and we're often at a loss for resources when we have clients with high acuity needs. I'm still frustrated by a siloed system and the wide gaps in between levels of care where we don't have adequate resources to help patients step down effectively. Not to mention treating symptoms instead of the root cause: trauma. Sigh, I'm just so frustrated with our healthcare system and how the burden is placed on us therapists to fix it, when what we really need is a shift of societal recognition that we have to prioritize mental health. Thanks for the article and the work you do.