Healthcare Technology Featured Article

November 13, 2020

COVID-19 and the accessibility of addiction treatment

What do you do when rehab isn’t available?

Of all the ways the COVID pandemic has challenged and changed our country, addiction – and the access to treatment for it - is the most keenly felt by many. With our families and individuals finding themselves isolated in an effort to support each other, the continuum of care in the UK and worldwide has been diminished drastically.

With more people than ever battling substance misuse and dependency, we have a clear gap in the ability to support and care for them.

Lack of NHS support

Simply put, the continuum of care for adults battling addiction refers to how easy it is to access treatment – and how many people can do so if they require it.

Traditionally, this hasn’t been the best in the UK. Although we are fortunate to have government-funded healthcare through the National Health Service, it’s long been the case that addiction treatment is made available to precious few.

One of the harsher and more insidious aspects of addiction in the real world is its subtlety. Where the media portrays substance abuse as a ‘black and white’ affair with no in-between, reality differs. The spiral of addiction begins slowly, building in intensity over time.

Available treatment doesn’t reflect this. Adults who wish to apply for treatment through the NHS must prove unequivocally that they are addicted to drugs, alcohol or addictive behaviour like gambling. There’s no real room for the earlier stages, resulting in a gap in the continuum of care for those who could be supported sooner rather than later.

Isolation and addiction

And now more than ever, those earlier stages are being experienced and battled through by adults. With the pandemic isolating adults and disrupting their routines, the stage is set for an introduction into a private fight with problematic substance misuse.

Social connections are one of the most powerful ways in which we can support each other and avoid the slide into addiction and destructive behaviour. When we are close we can check each other’s behaviour, giving encouragement and support to those who appear to need it. With working professionals unemployed or furloughed in many cases and confined to their homes, we are vulnerable.

And with the NHS being unable to provide care to those newly abusing substances and destructive behaviours, the need for treatment by professionals is greater than ever before.

Online alternatives

Whenever there is such a surge in the need for addiction treatment, the private sector invariably rises to meet that demand. Adults need help, and the limited access to affordable care in the UK has resulted in fresh innovation to help adults live a life free from substance abuse.

Online addiction treatment is an excellent example of this. Just as many adults are finding themselves coming into work via a Zoom call from home, those in need of addiction-related help are now turning to clinics that provide internet-based intensive programmes.

With drug testing able to be performed remotely through video calls, it’s an ideal alternative – and it’s cheaper, too. With no need for physical residency throughout digital programmes, the cost can be lowered significantly while still delivering a similar degree of care. And with that lower price comes a greater continuum of care for adults struggling across the country and beyond.

The path ahead

It’s unclear how long the pandemic will limit our lives and face us in front of the enemy that is addiction. As the months stretch on and many adults fall further into the spiral of destructive behaviour, it is our sincere hope that rehabilitation clinics across the country and in others continue to make their invaluable services available.

We hope you’ve found this brief article helpful and informative. We wish you the best and encourage you, if the need is there, to consider the affordable and modern treatment options available to you during this unique period in history.

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