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The Coronavirus Pandemic: A Recipe for Addiction Disaster

illustration - woman in face mask holding knees to chest, surrounded by virus - pandemicIf there was a recipe for addiction, one of the key ingredients would be isolation. People who lack a social network and encouragement to live their best life find it especially difficult to get or stay sober.

How COVID Is Making Recovery Tougher

A May 2020 report by the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals outlines how people who struggle with addiction are facing even greater barriers, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Addiction has been an increasingly prevalent public health issue for decades, and it is now being exacerbated by the pandemic and the social distancing policies required to manage the spread of the virus. In a year when substance abuse deaths in California were already on track to break previous records, the situation has been further compounded by:

  • Financial despair
  • Psychiatric trauma
  • Inaccessibility of services
  • A shrinking treatment system

The Ugly Math

While the state of California is making concerted efforts to try to reduce the number of deaths from substance abuse, there is still a huge disparity between the number of people who meet criteria for a substance use disorder in the state versus the number of beds available to them. According to the 2018 report:

  • In 2018, nearly 2.5 million Californians met criteria for illicit drug or alcohol dependence or abuse. As of April 2020, there were 1,742 residential treatment beds in California, only 17 more than in 2008.
  • If every bed were used for only a short treatment duration of 30 days, 20,904 unique clients is the maximum that could be served annually.
  • While California has 832 certified outpatient treatment programs, they are still not enough to treat the remaining 2.3 million Californians who need help.
  • There are 9,038 certified addiction counselors and 10,108 registered alcohol drug technicians in California, which is far from the number needed to treat such a large population of patients.

A Growing Problem

The numbers above are from two years ago, and the need for substance use treatment has likely grown during the pandemic, creating a perfect storm of factors that could exacerbate issues for people who are struggling with addiction. The report goes on to talk about how substance use has spiked during times of economic recession, when unemployment is high, and following national traumas like the 9/11 attacks. The current economic difficulty related to the pandemic and the natural disasters impacting California this year are contributing issues during this difficult time.

Devastating Impact

It’s never easy to break the cycle of addiction and enter active recovery, but COVID is making it even harder by:

  • Increasing isolation
  • Reducing protective factors like community involvement, family interaction, supervision, and access to healthy coping skills
  • Increasing unemployment
  • Exacerbating mental health issues
  • Placing increased strain on healthcare systems
  • Making it more difficult to get treatment

How Is California Responding?

While California may still have room for improvement in how it responds to addiction, a recent piece of legislation, Senate Bill 855, aims to address mental health and substance use disorder. According to, a site that specializes in delivering healthcare news, the new law will force insurers to cover mental health and substance abuse as thoroughly as they cover medical needs by requiring uniform criteria to get care regardless of what insurance agency is involved.

Fair Oaks’s Response to the Pandemic

During this difficult time, Fair Oaks Recovery Center is doing everything possible to keep our staff and our guests safe from the coronavirus. We continue to offer our usual outpatient services, including Monday-Thursday Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) sessions from 5-8 p.m., but with added procedures in place to stop the spread of the virus.

We have also begun using technology to bring innovation to our practices so that we may now offer telehealth outpatient services.

How Can I Benefit from Outpatient Treatment?

One of the best things about outpatient programming is the flexibility. While a person who is doing residential treatment has to put their life on hold during the 30+ days of treatment, an IOP allows for a person to attend sessions at the time that their work and other life obligations will allow.

An IOP also gives the person in recovery access to experts with high levels of education and experience in substance abuse treatment. While the peer support gained in recovery groups like AA, NA, and SMART Recovery is crucial, there is no substitute for the professional expertise that master’s-level professionals can offer.

A third factor that makes an IOP beneficial to people looking to break the cycle of addiction is its ability to address the isolation that can sabotage efforts to enter recovery. By helping people to see that they are not alone in fighting substance use disorder, an IOP can offer hope and support.

We Are Ready to Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, Fair Oaks Recovery Center can provide a trauma-informed, supportive environment, with procedures in place to keep our guests healthy during this difficult time.

Fair Oaks Recovery Center of california - sacramento alcohol and drug addiction treatment center

For more information about programs offered at Fair Oaks Recovery Center, including our intensive outpatient program in Sacramento, please call us today at (888) 989-9690.

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