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Keeping Addicts in Mind During the COVID-19 Pandemic by Dr Kanisha Hall

·3-min read

In the last few months, the healthcare system has–rightly so–focused entirely on the Coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals were at their maximum capacity and doctors were fighting against time to help every patient. But during this time, it seems like many diseases have been forgotten or pushed aside, something we cannot allow.

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Opioid Crisis is Still Here

One of the diseases being less treated or talked about is addiction. Society often demonizes addiction when in reality we should be treating it for what it is: an illness, a sickness. The pandemic has not made the opioid crisis disappear, and as a country we need to multitask our efforts to fight them both. As a physician who practices addiction medicine, I can tell you most Americans personally know someone battling opioid addiction, and therefore we cannot push this disease aside.

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Most addicts will not ask for help due to the shame they are made to feel. As a society, we have placed a stigma on mental health issues. This is why we only see addicts instead of seeing a person struggling with an illness. Many healthcare providers have dedicated their careers to put an end to this stigmatization and provide the appropriate help.

Telemedicine can Help

During this pandemic, doctors like myself had to transition their practices into telemedicine. As an opioid addiction counselor, I have found this new modality can help us reach a larger number of patients suffering with addiction and other mental health issues who were too ashamed to come into the office. By having virtual access to their doctors and counselors, they can connect with us through their smartphones or computers.

Everything in my career has led me to have my own addiction medicine practice to help as many people as possible. I did not want the pandemic to forbid people from getting the counseling they needed, so I expanded my practice to accept new patients in Maine and Texas to work with me via telemedicine. I hope to duplicate the same in Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, and Nevada. The main goal is to provide these people with the care they deserve.

National Recovery Month

The current pandemic seems to be the only health issue in everyone’s mouth, but we cannot forget about the rest. September is National Recovery Month–which not many know about–so I encourage everyone to participate in #CelebrateRecovery #MyReasonWhy and shed light on the importance of recovery. This movement encourages people to share their stories by posting a reason for hope and bring awareness to such an important matter.

As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot stop helping those battling other diseases. For decades addicts have been silenced and pushed aside, it is time to change that. Telemedicine is one of the greatest tools we can now take advantage of to help those too ashamed to discuss their opioid addiction in a doctor’s office. We have the resources to right the wrongs from the past and help those struggling.