Drug/alcohol abuse assistance goes virtual during pandemic

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By NewsRadio 1120 KMOX

ST. LOUIS (KMOX)-One side effect of the stay-at-home orders and layoffs during the coronavirus crisis is an increase in alcohol and drug abuse. However, changes made during the shutdown have also made it easier to get help.

For example, National Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NCADA) Counseling Coordinator Shelley Stretch says rather than having to go to a recovery meeting in person, you can now join them virtually. She says she often counsels her clients to join them. "I'm like, just call in. They can't see you. You can just listen and see if it's something that, maybe, you might want to attend once it does open back up to being a live type of meeting." Stretch hopes the organizations that are hosting such virtual meetings, keep holding them after the pandemic is over.

When it comes to opioid abuse, Stretch says a "gigantic positive change" is the lifting of regulations regarding suboxone, allowing people to get the opioid antagonist over the phone, often within 24 to 48 hours. 

She says in the past you'd have to be seen in person, undergo drug urinalysis and an assessment. "Most places now, as long as you have a phone that you can actually see a doctor, like a video chat. You can get suboxone over the phone. At some places, actually, you don't even have to have the video capability. You can talk to a doctor and get suboxone prescribed." 

A heartbreaking aspect of the shutdown, according to Stretch, is the number of people who are in recovery who are drinking or using again. She says she encourages them to 'get back on that bicycle'. "You never started riding a bike without training wheels and when the training wheels came off you fell a couple of times. If you fall, learn from that lesson and maybe the next time you won't." She says the most difficult part in recovery is reaching out and asking for help, which is even more difficult during this time of limited social interaction. 

To find out more about the help that is available go to the NCADA website. 

For personal assistance email counselor@ncada-stl.org or call 314-962-3456.