In the past few weeks, America has gotten a mixture of both inspiring and disheartening news. On the positive side, it does sound like vaccines for COVID-19 will soon be arriving; potentially eradicating our current pandemic. But negatively, cases still continue to rise and more lockdowns have been set in place. So that begs the question, what exactly can we expect in the next few months when it comes to U.S. addictions?
The noted website Vox published an interesting article that addresses the question. They believe that the next several months could create serious problems for people who are seeking out recovery options and that may have to do with regulations put forth by the United States government.
Obviously, the mandatory quarantines were a game changer for many industries. On the recovery front, certain restrictions were lifted to help people who now can no longer receive treatment in person. Doctors, for example, were able to prescribe medications like buprenorhine (which has been shown to treat opioid dependencies) via video chats. State and federal officials also made it easier for public insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid to pay for telemedicine recovery services.
Now though, those restrictions may be put back in place as the vaccines begin to be distributed. That is understandable, of course, but it is important to emphasize that there will most certainly be a gray area between the date the vaccines go out and when people will actually receive them. And in that window, people will still be quarantined but without the telemedicine accessibility they once had.
Many prominent recovery advocates have already spoken out about this dangerous transition, believing that it could most certainly lead to more overdose deaths. Kelly Clark, president of the group Addiction Crisis Solutions, had strong words for Vox on the subject.
“The stakes are life and death,” Clark explained. “We know, absolutely, that people who are taking their maintenance medications like buprenorphine for opioid addiction have a decreased chance of dying prematurely because of their addiction compared to those who aren’t on medications. This is very clear.”
So ultimately, yes there is a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the coronavirus and getting in-person treatment back on track. But there will be many months in between where addiction risks will be elevated and we applaud Vox for accurately calling that out.