A person who uses a substance or engages in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide the desire to repeat the activity over and over again, regardless of any harmful consequences. Addiction can involve substances such as cocaine, opioids, nicotine, alcohol, sex, shopping, video gaming, gambling and much more. Not only is engaging in the activity or substance exciting for the user, but the behaviors leading up to it, such as the act of buying the substance or the act of getting to the casino, also release the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Living on Long Island, we have been known as the “ground zero” for the heroin and opioid epidemic. According to the National Safety Council, Long Island residents accounted for over 20% of the fatal overdoses in New York State. According to WSHU, in 2020 there has been a 40% increase in fatal drug overdoses in Suffolk County, and a 50% increase in Nassau County compared to the first half of 2019.
In the late 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers. This led to healthcare providers prescribing these medications at higher rates. Currently, nearly 85% of overdose deaths involve illicitly manufactured fentanyls, heroine, cocaine or methamphetamine (either alone or in combination).
The White House has declared that drug abuse with opiod addiction a public health emergency. When fentanyl (a synthetic drug) hit the market, it immediately worsened the epidemic and increased the death toll. Drug overdoses make up 1/3rd of the deaths in Nassau County every year.
Knowing the resources on a national and local level is a great start to getting someone, who is open to change, the help they need. The Long Island Council of Drug and Alcohol Dependence has a local helpline that is also available 24/7, 365 days a year (631.979.1700). Long Island is fortunate enough to have some great inpatient and outpatient services too for those struggling with addiction. Depending on the severity of addiction, there are always AA and NA meetings available, which have continued to occur on a virtual platform even with the current COVID-19 pandemic. There are also Al-Anon meetings for families and friends of the person struggling with addiction. There are in-patient detox centers available if someone needs a safe place to go through the detox process with support of trained professionals. It’s crucial to remember that you are never alone when it comes to addiction and it is no one’s fault, but truly a disease, like many others. Please never hesitate to reach out for support, we are here for you.
When struggling with recovery of addiction, especially in a time of physical distancing (COVID-19), it is important to turn to the people that are important to you and that you trust. Physical distancing does not have to mean emotional distancing. Here are a few tips for staying connected in your recovery:
- ZOOM IN: Zoom, Facetime and Google Hangouts have been a few of the ways to remain connected to the people you love, even in such uncertain times. Recovery meetings have transitioned onto this new technology and platform. While many individuals miss the personal “face-to-face” meetings, utilizing zoom meetings keeps individuals connected with their support group and can offer great access to other meetings that they may not normally attend.
- Get Spiritually Connected: Having a spiritual foundation or a religious foundation also helps because they can be sources of hope, inspiration and empowerment along with giving you a sense of community and belonging. One of the pillars of recovery is finding a supportive community to be connected with. For many, this may be 12 step meetings. For some, it may be in another spiritual community such as church, meditation centers or a local recovery center. Recovering from addiction is not something most people can or need to do alone.
- Be Mindful: Engaging in mindfulness practices is another great way to decompress from stressful situations because these practices encourage a person to be present in the moment, and to deal with things as they come. Learning to focus on current surroundings will help to manage past and future thoughts. Practicing mindfulness skills help us accept things “as they are” rather than how we wish they would be. Utilizing mindfulness practices also helps change the situation or think about how to best handle the situation that is causing distress. Learning to sit in discomfort is essential to maintaining sobriety. Accepting discomfort, as opposed to escaping it, is a skill that takes time and effort to develop. Learning to be comfortable with being sad, mad or stressed is the best way for your body to start to learn that you can handle the situation at hand.
- Have fun! Overall it is essential to be engaging in enjoyable activities and utilizing problem solving and stress management techniques while being surrounded by your loved ones for support. There is no right or wrong way to maintain sobriety or reach out for help. Everyone is unique in their needs and some tools help more than others. Being open-minded to trying different strategies until finding one that works for you is imperative to creating a routine that feels good for you.
- Ask for help. Besides the recovery communities, the long island community has a great professional community that is especially trained to deal with the specific challenges that recovering individuals and their families face. Many of the members of our clinical team have extensive experience supporting those in or seeking recovery. If one of our team members can’t assist you, we are always open to helping individuals find a therapist that is best for them.
At Long Island Teletherapy we continue to be available to anyone seeking support for addictions. Additionally, please see below for local resources when needing support/ engaging in holistic practices: