Since the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol and substance abuse has also increased. Recent data shows that 47% of individuals who were regular drug users reported increased substance abuse during the pandemic.
Monica Tone, MD, medical director for the Substance Use Recovery and Wellness Program at Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center says it can be hard to know how best to support someone in recovery. “Recovering from substance abuse and addiction is difficult,” she says, “and it’s important that individuals in recovery feel supported by those they care about.”
Tone says the recovery process will be smoother for everyone if they’re prepared.
Here’s what to expect:
A person in acute withdrawal may be feeling very physically ill, sometimes with stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, very high anxiety, irritability, and poor sleep. This typically lasts 3-7 days.
For the following days to weeks, the body is still adjusting to its new normal. Higher anxiety, irritation, poor sleep, mental fogginess and some minor physical withdrawal symptoms are still commonly present during this stage. There may be high cravings for the substance, and for food and sugar.
Early, middle, and late recovery
Physically a person may be feeling better, but there are often still ongoing cravings that may come and go. It is important to watch out for stressors, and address underlying hurt, trauma and mental health concerns as the person works towards healing. Repairing social and family relationships and finding meaning are very important as recovery progresses.
When it comes to supporting someone in recovery, Tone offers four tips that can help in the process.
Learn about the disease of addiction. Many treatment programs encourage family involvement and there are other great resources available online.
Addiction is a disease that affects the whole family. Most of the time, addiction has hurt relationships. Al Anon is a great resource for peer support from others who have loved ones with addiction. Support from a personal therapist can also be very helpful.
Because addiction is an ongoing brain disease, relapses are not uncommon, although they can be very frustrating. Holding patients lovingly accountable can provide them the support they need to stay away from substances. A substance-free environment, and limiting access to substances, can be very helpful. Encourage prompt re-engagement with treatment when relapses do occur.
Connecting with family and friends, re-engaging in positive social activities, and spiritual reconnection are crucial to your loved one’s healing and recovery.
More information about the substance abuse programs at the Behavioral Medicine Center is available online.