Addiction has been an on-going battle in the United States for many years. The federal government requires patients to visit doctors regularly in order to regulate anti-opiate addiction medications. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic preventing patients from in-person visits, many were concerned about the potential impacts this would have on addiction treatment. But, could the Covid-19 pandemic be beneficial for those suffering from addiction?
Telehealth Visits and their Benefits
The need to quarantine throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the increased use of technology in order to communicate. One of these developments is the implementation of TeleHealth. During telehealth visits, the patient meets with their doctor virtually, enabling patients to connect with doctors anywhere they have an internet connection. With many towns and cities offering shelters and quarantine-hotels, this vastly increases the number of people who are able to get treated and the frequency in which they are able to meet with their doctors.
Some patients were unable to attend meetings due to transportation, inability to leave possessions on the street, or just losing track of time. Telehealth visits allow patients to meet with their doctors in just about any location, removing the need to leave personal items behind or having a need for transportation. This opens up the frequency in which patients are able to meet with their doctors tenfold. In some places, this number has increased by 3-4 patients per doctor. This is a massive improvement compared to previous numbers of patients per doctor. The benefits aren’t just limited to telehealth visits, however.
Loosening the Laws
The pandemic has resulted in the loosening of many previous laws that limited the number of pills given to a patient to just one. This gives doctors the ability to make true clinical decisions and prescribe medication for up to two weeks. Furthermore, doctors are able to prescribe buprenorphine, which is a much safer alternative to methadone with significantly fewer side effects. This is a safer drug but, because of less research, has stricter rules surrounding it.
The rules surrounding buprenorphine were relaxed because patients are more likely to be in self-isolation, which can be extremely dangerous for patients who are using. Patients are more likely to overdose and, with medications like methadone, this is a serious risk. The ability to prescribe for the future is major as well, giving patients the treatment they truly need.
“The loosening of some of the laws which typically restrict some patients to only one dose per day is a major help in fighting the war on addiction”, says Mark Perlman of Withdrawal Info. Recovering addicts who rely on the daily reprieve that buprenorphine or Methadone provides is crucial in the fight to remain sober. When you add any additional roadblocks, the chance an addict might turn back to buying drugs off the street becomes exponentially more serious”.
Making Light in the Dark
Though Covid-19 is a dark situation for everyone, it’s important to remember that there is some good. The pandemic has, surprisingly, provided aid to those with major addictions. It has encouraged many major milestones within the medical community, many of which may stick around even after the pandemic has gone away. Though times are certainly difficult at the moment, we can remember that those struggling with everyday life are at least finding themselves receiving the care they need. As we continue to live life in these uncertain times, remember to count the good things in life. The pandemic has brought much of the world closer together, from families to entire communities.