(3TV/CBS 5) - The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown routines and habits off for almost everyone, and for recovering addicts, that’s the last thing they need. The less-social world that we’ve lived in all spring and summer has meant a surge of relapses for people who had been clean for months, if not years.
Drug addiction is something so painful, so personal that a Glendale mother (we’ll call her ‘Ms. Miller’) didn’t want to be identified when she talked to us about her son ‘Mark,’ who started using again earlier this year. “It’s been pretty hard, especially for me and my daughter,’ Ms. Miller said. “My daughter moved out as well, because it’s hard for her to see him go through that, and she just had a baby, so it’s hard for her to be around him like that.”
Mark, 29, had been clean for 8 months, but when the lockdowns started from COVID-19, he couldn’t escape to his favorite place anymore. “I don’t want to say that it was only because of the skate parks closing, but that was like a huge part of it. That was like one thing that I’ve used every day to get some therapy out of. Like free therapy,” Mark said.
“The treatment of addiction is all about connections – making connections and understanding the psychological challenges that come with addiction,” said executive vice president of Cordant Health Solutions Bob Mann.
When Mark no longer had access to those connections, he, like most of us, ended up spending a lot more time at home. And he was often alone. “It just woke up a bunch of old demons,” he said.
Cordant’s new pharmacy in Mesa is hoping to give addicts easier access to medication-assisted treatment, or MAT. Clients have office visits with their clinicians and can get their meds – like the Vivitrol Mark uses once a month to block cravings – all in one place. “We would be there physically, with their medication, to hand it to them when they were done,” Mann said. “So they wouldn’t have to make an extra trip to a pharmacy.”
Cordant says 100% of their clients are there for opioid addiction, so they say it creates much less of a stigma for people as they get their meds. The pharmacy’s business model has seen growth every month of the pandemic. During the same time, Mann says Arizona had overdose rates that were about 20% higher than this time last year.
The Millers are still trying to find something that works, hoping that a return to normalcy will also help recovery. “He’s my son. I can’t let him go. I can’t let him – everybody tells me you have to let him hit rock bottom. I don’t know if I can do that,” Ms. Miller said.