October 30, 2020 Addiction

The Hidden Epidemic Among Our Frontline Heroes

Cases of overdose and other drug-related problems are increasing among our frontline heroes during the pandemic. Avoiding the coronavirus, and the potential risk of getting sick, by working from home is not an opportunity available to essential workers.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, this segment of the workforce conducts a range of operations and services that are typically deemed essential to continue critical infrastructure operations. This is a broad term encompassing different sectors from energy to defense to agriculture.

Nurses, home health aides and other courageous workers are risking their own lives to keep us safe. They are dealing with burn-out, depression, insomnia and other stress-related disorders putting them at increased risk of developing substance abuse or behavioral health problems or even dual-diagnosis mental health and addiction.

Let’s take a closer look at these heroes working diligently to keep you and your family safe.

Meet the Indiana COVID-19 Frontline Heroes

Indiana critical industry workers include healthcare professionals, public health workers, manufacturers, food producers and more. Top occupations of essential frontline workers:

  • Doctors, nurses, medical staff
  • Police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers
  • Grocery and convenience store workers
  • Pharmacy employees
  • Personal care and home health aides
  • COVID-19 testers and lab technicians
  • Social workers, clinicians, therapists
  • Farmers and ranchers
  • Electricians, plumbers, A/C techs
  • Healthcare service workers including cooks and housekeepers

Other essential workers on the frontline of danger include factory workers and manufacturers making items to keep us safe such as masks, face shields, disposable gloves, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and more.

Addressing Addiction During the Pandemic

Drug overdoses are soaring fueled in part by the isolation and economic upheaval facing essential workers on the frontline. There is a serious need to find treatment options and harm reduction services for this segment of the population.

The American Medical Association recently reported on the increase in drug-related overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 40 states are reporting increased opioid- and drug-related problems with a concerned focus on substance abuse and mental health issues.

Compared to the overall workforce, many essential workers earn lower wages than average, making them more likely to come from socio-economically disadvantaged groups. They may also lack basic workplace benefits and are either uninsured or underinsured having limited to no access to healthcare coverage. Problems finding and accessing effective treatment for frontline workers include stigma from the community, fear of job loss, thinking treatment won’t work, denying they have a problem or financial concerns. So, where can these heroes turn when they are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction?

Trauma Treatment for Our Heroes

Working to provide necessary services, supplies and protection to others during the Coronavirus pandemic can lead to a variety of mental health problems. Emergency response and healthcare workers on the frontline deal with many issues including:

  • Fear
  • Burn-out
  • Nightmares
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Substance abuse
  • Co-occurring disorders

Recognizing these emotions, developing coping skills and building resilience are all important tools. When not kept in check, these emotions can get out of control leading to drug or alcohol abuse creating a very real need for essential workers to have access to integrated treatment for trauma and substance use.

Support from administration and supervisors, effective communication and health screening and intervention are all methods that can help reduce mental health and substance use problems facing our essential workers.

FMLA, or the Family and Medical Leave Act, is a Federal Law that allows eligible employees to take an unpaid leave of absence for specific medical reasons, such as substance use disorder treatment. The FMLA ensures job protection once you are ready to go back to work and continued health insurance coverage during the leave.

Employees may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of protected leave to get the help they need. At Indiana Center for Recovery, you can rest assured that we will work with your Human Resources Department to help take care of all the details.

Indiana Center for Recovery

Our frontline workers continue to play a critical role providing essential services and care during the COVID-19 pandemic. This segment of the population is also worried about their own health and safety on the job while working in factories, hospitals, nursing homes and acute care facilities.

Indiana Center for Recovery is a dual-diagnosis facility, equipped to handle co-occurring disorders of mental health and addiction. Essential workers coming to our facility are placed with a primary therapist and provided with a comprehensive treatment plan based on their unique and specific needs.

Addiction to drugs or alcohol can often be traced back to past trauma. Some people with post-traumatic stress and other mental health disorders start using drugs or alcohol to try to repress these traumatic memories. EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a therapeutic modality that reduces these unpleasant memories resulting in a powerful effect and lessening the chance of relapse.

Besides EMDR, we offer many other therapy services including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Pyschodrama
  • Trauma therapy
  • Dialectal behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Biofeedback
  • Family therapy
  • Expressive therapy
  • Art therapy
  • 12-step approach and alternatives

Our programs are designed to address substance use disorders and underlying issues facing essential workers such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Before leaving our facility, our discharge team will meet with you to create a relapse prevention plan to help you make a smooth transition to continuing care after treatment.