This past week, The New York Times published an informative article on the state of recovery during COVID-19. The key topic of the piece was telemedicine and how virtual treatment appears to be the way of the future (at least for now).
In some ways, telemedicine shows definite promise; particularly for those struggling in rural regions of the country. In this scenario, qualified specialists and counselors can make themselves available no matter where you may live. This had been a hurdle in years’ past, as those in more desolate areas had trouble getting themselves to proper recovery clinics.
Per the article, home treatment can also reduce the “shame factor” and allow for more privacy. An anonymous interviewee for the piece, who goes by the name of Robert, explained how that component has shown great benefits for him.
“Home treatment and telemedicine lessens the shame for me,” he explained. “I don’t have to worry what doctors around here think. My Suboxone — it’s just a medication. I don’t think about it. I just take it and go about my day.”
Of course, telemedicine isn’t without its challenges. There is a learning curve involved and statistics show that many Americans (particularly within the older set) have struggled to adapt. There are also issues facing low income addicts, as this type of treatment requires good internet connections and up-to-date computers.
Another interviewee for the piece, medical director Arthur Robin Williams, added to that fact; emphasizing that telemedicine availability is an ongoing struggle.
“In many cases, it is easier for people to get the dangerous drugs than to get the treatment for addiction,” Williams told The Times. “But in the end, we are working hard to make this as accessible as we can. [Telemedicine aims to offer] a reduction of the hassle, wait times, anxiety and fear of withdrawal in a waiting room. We’ve removed the stigma and the power dynamic that typically exists in a clinic. We are putting the same level of trust in recovery patients as you would with diabetes or hypertension.”
Interestingly, several recovery orgs had already been working on implementing this model before COVID-19 hit. Now, though, things are moving forward at a breakneck pace. Everything from treatment prescriptions to therapy sessions are conducted via Zoom chats. The trends still aren’t fully clear as to whether this will be a successful method going forward (even beyond coronavirus), but our hope is that, for 2020 at least, it helps steer people struggling toward a life of sobriety.