As COVID-19 maintains its grip on America, fears are growing that the pandemic is creating a health crisis of another kind: a relapse into addiction by people battling substance abuse.  

Any recovering addict will tell you that their battle with substance abuse is one they fight every single day, and that certain triggers can make that struggle even harder.  

The greatest of these, agree experts, is perhaps social isolation. Safety requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have not only encouraged isolation but demanded it.  


Loss of support

Social distancing is particularly problematic for addicts because it distances them from a key element of recovery; the support and strength gained from those around you.

Without that support, even the strongest among us may falter. Many people in recovery rely on the routine of peer support groups or regular in-person meetings. Limitations on gatherings during COVID-19 have meant some support groups are not able to meet, or if they are, those in recovery are hesitant to attend and risk exposure to COVID-19.

The South Suburban Council  has been able to maintain outpatient and Residential treatment services for our clients while maintaining safe social distancing during COVID-19.

Closed Doors

Much of addiction treatment focuses on a former addict being able to live life openly and honestly in the light of day and in the presence of others. This means being able to accept that the disease of addiction will always be with them but does not define them or prohibit their ability to be crucial members of society.  The lockdown has, by its definition, forced many people behind closed doors and into darkness, both physically and mentally.


Using Alone

With isolation a huge determinant for relapse, an individual in recovery may begin using again.

And where they might once have used among friends, they are now more likely to do so alone. With no one nearby to help regulate, administer naloxone, or call 911 in the event of an overdose, the risk for overdose death increases.


Mental Health

The darkness of social isolation is not limited to the physical. We are social animals in need of human contact. Without this, many people have seen a negative impact on their mental health. At The South Suburban Council, we are intimately familiar with the correlation between mental health and addiction. It is why we place such a strong focus on treatment of Substance Abuse and Co-occurring Mental Health Disorder.



Many addicts have underlying medical conditions, which often places them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. The fear that they might get the virus by leaving their home, can cause extreme anxiety for many. Anxiety and stress are huge triggers for relapse.


Financial Stress

As businesses across the nation shut down and unemployment went up, many people found themselves under financial stress. Unable to make rent, buy groceries or pay bills, the fear, depression, and anxiety created by that stress can lead many who are in recovery to revert to old ways of dealing with problems.


How to Fight Relapse


Support Partner

The importance of support can not be underestimated. Find someone who you can connect with daily. If this person is free of the virus, then meet them in person. If that’s not feasible or safe, find a way to meet live in some way, either online or on the phone. This person should be someone who will not in any way enable your addiction.


Group Meetings

Some substance abuse treatment organizations have established online groups to support those in recovery.

It may not feel the same as meeting in person, but it will help tackle that feeling of isolation and may help to speak with others who know where you’re coming from.


Stay Busy

It’s in the in-between times that temptation can sneak in. Even if your life has no clear structure right now, create some. Give yourself a list of a few things to do each day. It can be as simple as making your bed. Exercise is known to help many people in recovery. Exercise has multiple benefits, but an exercise again helps to create structure in the day.


Signs of Relapse

There are many signs that you, or someone you know, could be heading for a relapse.

Watch for these signs and have a plan for what to do should relapse occur.

  • Poor eating or sleeping habits
  • Declining hygiene
  • Talking to past friends who still use
  • Constant lying
  • Bottling up emotion
  • Skipping or avoiding virtual support meetings

Treatment Available Now

If you, or someone you care about, has relapsed the advice is the same: treat yourself or your friend with empathy and kindness.

Encourage your friend to take the next step to get help. Give them the information they may need but might not have the strength to seek out right now.

Give them The South Suburban Council phone number – 708.647.3333.

Or call us yourself and we’ll tell you about our programs and what we can do to help.

We have outpatient treatment plans, where people needing help can stay in their homes and still get treatment.

We also have residential programs.

To learn more about our programs:

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