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Concern grows for those battling addiction during coronavirus crisis

Last Updated Apr 13, 2020 at 7:10 am PDT

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An expert says there are concerns for people coping with addiction during the coronavirus pandemic

In-person meetings like AA and NA have been temporarily cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis

A number of counselling services are available virtually now; expert says it's important to reach out for help

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Fear and stress are becoming commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among those dealing with addiction.

An expert says while many people are feeling significant anxiety, fear, or stress right now, those coping with drug or alcohol addiction are going through an even worse time.

Dawn Schooler, owner of Jericho Counselling in Vancouver, says with Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous in-person meetings not an option due to temporary closures, self-isolation can become an even greater concern.

“Anyone dealing with addiction heading into this is at pretty high risk for it getting worse, and anyone who maybe has been recovered from addiction trouble is also a pretty high risk,” she tells NEWS 1130. “Anyone who is living alone, has a history of addiction, doesn’t have built-in familial community support, I think those are the folks at highest risk right now.”

She says at first, many thought the crisis would only last a few weeks, and concern was highest for things like income or their families’ wellbeing.

But as the situation progressed, Schooler says the stakes are growing higher.

“We’re even seeing a lot of addiction issues pop up as people look for some way to cope to manage their stress during these times,” she explains.

Schooler does say one bright spot out of all of this may be a shift toward people seeking online counselling, which, she says, many of her clients are speaking favourably of amid the pandemic.

“We’ve probably been delivering virtual services to about 20 per cent of our clients for the past few years, and they’re big advocates of it,” she says. “I think as we all get better at it, and adapt to the technology so we’re not stumbling around there, I think we’re going to be really pleased with how effective these modalities are for everybody.”

The B.C. government announced last week $5-million to help bring resources online to support people who may be struggling with their mental health.

Schooler believes the current situation will change the way a number of industries, including the counselling industry, operate in the future.

“I think people are realizing that working from home is a reasonable option, and being able to access good technology and deliver great quality counselling service remotely is really going to change the industry,” she says.

If you need help, you can find a number of resources online.

“We all need to build as many healthy coping strategies as possible, especially during a time like this, so we’re not just turning to alcohol or other substances that could have an addicting effect. Holistic wellness, things like meditation, yoga, using mindfulness apps and other crisis support services that are out there and ready to serve.”