After it took too long for nearly everyone to recognize and react to the opioid epidemic, the last five years or so have seen tremendous gains. We can’t afford to take a step back now.

But recovery from addiction requires the supporting influence of community and the comfort of routine, both of which have been upended by the COVID-19 outbreak. While we are all stuck at home, vulnerable people throughout the recovery community have been put at risk.

Just as in other areas of life in the time of the coronavirus, health care providers, social workers and peers in the recovery community have adjusted quickly to the orders to stay home and refrain from large gatherings.

For 12-step meetings addressing both alcohol and drug addiction, phone and online meetings are replacing face-to-face ones.

For their part, doctors and therapists are using telemedicine to meet with patients. Some are taking advantage of loosened federal guidelines to avoid face-to-face meetings, or to provide patients with more doses of medications that treat opioid addiction, allowing them to shelter in place.

No doubt these efforts provide a lifeline for many Americans right now. But in many cases it’s a poor substitute for the real thing.

Some people don’t have a smartphone or a home computer. Others visit doctors who have yet to change their practices to reflect the new federal guidelines. It’s harder to reach people who need harm-reduction tools such as clean syringes and the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.

And in many cases, there is just no substitute for personal connection. It’s hard to replicate online the feeling of sitting across from someone who is there to help you, or of walking into a meeting filled with people who share your struggles.

An important step in recovery is discovering you are not alone, and that others have faced down the same demons, made the same mistakes, and wished for the same triumphs. In the age of COVID-19, that is simply harder to do.

But, hopefully, not impossible.

A listing of virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can be found at csoaamaine.org. Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services offers behavioral health guidance, virtual recovery supports, and a list of state hotlines for a variety of emergencies and crises at maine.gov/dhhs/samhs.

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, you can call the Maine Statewide Crisis line at 1-888-568-1112. If you need help but aren’t sure where to go, contact the general state helpline by dialing 211, emailing [email protected], or going to 211maine.org.

They may not be where they usually are, but people are still around to help. Even in a time of isolation, you are not alone.


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