The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to stay in their homes and has created or increased feelings of stress, anxiety, fear and panic. To cope, a growing number of people have turned to alcohol and other substances.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 2020, 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use as a way of dealing with stress or emotions related to COVID-19.
Even more distressing is that overdose deaths (primarily related to synthetic opioid use, such as fentanyl) have also been on the rise since the start of the pandemic, reaching record high levels. From April 2020 to April 2021, there were more than 100,000 overdose deaths in the United States, double the number in 2015.
Supports that typically help make long-term recovery more attainable — such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, SMART Recovery and other community-based programs — have either not been available or are now offered virtually, which doesn’t meet everyone’s needs.
These types of supports are a vital part of recovery and sobriety because people who attend meetings form bonds, hold each other accountable and create a community. When meetings shifted to remote, accountability became harder to maintain and many people have relapsed behind closed doors.
Similarly, increased demand on medical and mental health providers since the pandemic started means people are not always able to access the help they need from licensed professionals. But help is available to UFT members and their families.
How to get help
Licensed master social worker (LMSW) Jenice Acosta, MAP’s substance use liaison, is available to assess and support in-service UFT members or their family members. The UFT also offers a free and confidential recovery support group and runs a Shattering the Stigma substance use and recovery series. For more information visit Together We Recover.
The New York State HOPEline (anonymous and confidential) is available to provide support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 877-8-HOPENY, or text HOPENY.
The UFT Member Assistance Program offers short-term counseling and outside referrals to help you deal with a wide range of issues. If you feel overwhelmed and need to speak with a clinician immediately, call the MAP careline at 212-331-6322.