COVID-19 – Let’s not forget the most vulnerable

Writing about addiction, Fiona said:

"There’s no question, the current situation is difficult for us all. Whether we’re worrying about protecting ourselves and our families, keeping our businesses afloat or how to manage working from home while entertaining the kids, this crisis is disrupting all our lives. Despite all our preoccupations, it is important that we do not forget about those less visible for whom the current situation might be particularly difficult. 

One of these groups is people in recovery from alcohol or other drug addictions. Addiction often goes hand in hand with isolation. People withdraw from their lives and networks. Therefore, recovery emphasises connection, sharing one’s feelings and worries with others and overcoming barriers through mutual support. This brings up the important question: how is connection possible when self-isolating and avoiding unnecessary contact? 

Melissa Rice, presenter of the BBC podcast Hooked and herself in recovery, says: “It is important for me to reframe this current situation. I have been telling myself: ‘this self-isolation isn’t your alcoholism; this is an act of self-care’. Although I may be unable to leave the house, it is vital that I don’t emotionally disconnect or distance myself from my support network and from my recovery.”

Another vulnerable group is people with alcohol dependence who may face alcohol withdrawal. Not only is this group potentially at greater risk for Covid-19 as they are more susceptible to infectious disease, but the combination of alcohol withdrawal and infectious disease presents a particular challenge for clinical management and services. Acute hospital services and others need to have clinical protocols in place to manage alcohol withdrawal and nutritional support for dependent drinkers with coronavirus. There’s a further risk of alcohol services being unable to continue to provide the needed support, as staff are moved onto other mental health or frontline operations and inpatient units might be diverted.

Although we need to keep a physical distance, social contact is now more important than ever. Many charities are going above and beyond to ensure they can still provide vital support to the people who rely on them – despite not knowing what will happen to their income streams over the next months. While most support services have stopped face-to-face meetings, many have moved to online meetings via Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp, and offer support by phone or text. 

Here are some contact details:

  • In addition to online meetings, Alcoholics Anonymous have a helpline which is open 24/7 on 0800 9177 650. They are also on email at help@aamail.org and have a live chat on their website at www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk.
  • SMART Recovery runs online meetings here.
  • Drinkline is a free, confidential helpline on 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am–8pm and weekends 11am–4pm).
  • Nacoa provides support to children (of all ages) who are worried about their parents’ drinking. Helpline: 0800 358 3456 (Monday-Saturday, 2pm-7pm) or helpline@nacoa.org.uk.
  • Al-Anon offers support to families and friends of dependent drinkers. Helpline: 0800 0086 811 (10am-10pm), helpline@al-anonuk.org.uk.

While these are extraordinary times, we can and we will come out strong at the other end – if we continue to look out for ourselves and each other, offer support where we can, and do not forget the most vulnerable groups. Even in self-isolation, we are not alone."