MANSFIELD, Texas — Getting help with addiction is a struggle for many, even in normal times.
Poll results show nearly one in four adults report drinking more alcohol to cope with their stress during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a pandemic that has stretched on now more than a year and a half, the challenges can be even more daunting.
“The isolation has produced a scenario where individuals who are desperate and anxious and depressed don’t necessarily have the social infrastructure around them that they would typically engaging in regular activities and social outings,” said Reneé Breazeale, M.S., LMFT, LCDC, administrator of the Texas Health Recovery and Wellness Center. “Without this infrastructure, there may be no one to help intervene and support those individuals in getting the services they need and help them not harm themselves. The pandemic has rewritten all of that for us.”
Nearly one in four adults reported drinking more alcohol to cope with their stress during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in AmericaTM poll, and that percentage jumped to more than half of adults (52 percent) for parents with elementary school age children.
And as of late June, 40 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has also reported overdose deaths in the country increased 30 percent in 2020, the highest spike in a single year. In Texas, the number of drug overdose deaths rose 33 percent in 2020.
Recognizing the warning signs that a friend or loved one may be struggling with addiction is important, Breazeale said.
A person’s level of engagement or mood may change. That person may show increased irritability, anxiety, anger or sadness or they may become very withdrawn, isolated and unreachable.
“Both extremes are reason for concern.” she said.
If you suspect someone you know may be battling an alcohol or substance abuse problem or be struggling with mental health issues, Breazeale recommends the following:
- Engage in contact with that person
“When you can’t physically be with someone, there are other ways to engage,” Breazeale said. “You can engage through FaceTime, through texting, through online game play, online chats, online meetings. And if you're really concerned that something has happened to someone and they're not responding to technology, then you can still go over and knock on their door, stand on the sidewalk six feet away and say hi. I think we have to rewrite that narrative for ourselves and realize that any kind of contact is better than no contact at all.”
- Ask the person about their well-being
“Just a simple question of ‘how are you really doing or how are you feeling?’ can help,” she said. “Perhaps they’ve lost a job recently, lost a relationship, been interviewing and not getting job offers or struggling with an eviction. Sit and take a minute to really listen to them.”
- Encourage the person to get a professional assessment
“A professional assessment will help that individual walk through what’s going on and determine what it is they really need. Is it anxiety that is promoting an alcohol problem or is it an alcohol problem that is promoting anxiety? There are so many nuances to diagnosing these things and figuring out what needs to be addressed and how best to address it, whether it’s a program or medication. The job of the assessor is to simply make a recommendation, not to tell people what to do because even though you seek professional help, the individual still maintains a voice and choice in what they do or not do.”
Texas Health Resources offers free assessments performed by a licensed physician at all our behavioral health facilities. To seek a free assessment or for more information, visit our website.
Breazeale said most treatment centers like Texas Health Recovery and Wellness Center have implemented safety precautions to be able to treat patients even during the pandemic. In addition, she said, many also now offer virtual options for treatment.
“Especially for those who are living in more rural or more remote areas, they can actually engage in individual therapy with a therapist virtually,” Breazeale said. “The pandemic has broadened the behavioral health spectrum of access to care and information and I do think that’s a positive.”
About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is a faith-based, nonprofit health system that cares for more patients in North Texas than any other provider. With a service area that consists of 16 counties and more than 7 million people, the system is committed to providing quality, coordinated care through its Texas Health Physicians Group and 29 hospital locations under the banners of Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Texas Health Harris Methodist and Texas Health Huguley. Texas Health access points and services, ranging from acute-care hospitals and trauma centers to outpatient facilities and home health and preventive services, provide the full continuum of care for all stages of life. The system has more than 4,100 licensed hospital beds, 6,400 physicians with active staff privileges and more than 26,000 employees. For more information about Texas Health, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit www.TexasHealth.org.