SWFL’s resources to combat pandemic-era rise in substance abuse

Published: July 29, 2021 5:24 AM EDT
Updated: July 29, 2021 9:10 AM EDT

The stress and uncertainty that COVID-19 brings with it is being blamed for a rise in substance abuse. More than 13% of Americans say they either started or increased substance use during the pandemic, according to the CDC. The number one thing you can do is get help, and surround yourself with good people.

With the increasing presence of drugs like Fentanyl, many are saying this is a third wave of the U.S. opioid epidemic. But the real killer is isolation. In an era where staying safe means limiting your contact with other people, loneliness can be just as much of a threat as a virus in some cases. The staff at St. Matthew’s House says when someone becomes addicted, they lose their relationships with other people, and those relationships are replaced with a drug. When they take someone through the process of recovery, they replace that drug with human interaction, something the pandemic has interrupted.

“For the individual that may be struggling with depression or anxiety, certainly there is a great need for that human contact and that human interaction throughout that process,” said Ray Steadman, vice president of programs for St. Matthew’s House. “And so if you look at the recovery process, and then look at what has happened in the pandemic, all of those things I just mentioned, were not available.”

If you think someone is struggling with addiction or relapse, the best thing you can do for them is get them professional help. We are lucky to have numerous resources in Southwest Florida aimed at helping people recover, whether it’s alcohol, drugs or something else they’re struggling with. Groups like St. Matthew’s House, the Salvation Army and the David Lawrence Center, among others, all offer programs you can look into to help your loved ones get back on track. These programs often go deeper than just offering a temporary fix; they look to set someone up for a life full of success and sobriety after they leave. Experts say having some form of support group and human interaction—whether it be a friend, family member or sponsor—is critical.

“There has to be some kind of mechanism for the individuals who are in recovery to be able to interact, whether it’s being safe, socially distanced, or whether that’s picking up the phone and calling when you’re struggling,” Steadman said. “Say you have to use all the tools that you have learned throughout the recovery process, and nothing can be neglected.”

For a full list of St. Matthew’s House’s programs and resources, visit its website.