Relapse rates increase amid pandemic, holidays

Isolation has more people turning to drugs and alcohol
Posted at 6:28 PM, Jan 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 18:28:16-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The pandemic has created a perfect storm for people with substance use or behavioral health challenges. That is a challenge counselors and treatment providers are scrambling to meet right now.

As more people relapse into substance abuse during this pandemic, there are groups helping people rebound instead of relapsing.

“Our December and January months have the most substance use issues,” explained Kathleen Roberts, executive director of the Community Coalition Alliance.

“We’ve already seen a 40% increase in some places in overdose calls,” Roberts explained.

The American Medical Association reports more than 40 states have seen increases in opioid-related overdoses. Roberts works with communities in North Florida to help prevent those overdoses.

Roberts told ABC 27, “depression, anxiety, unemployment, lack of housing,” are all factors that have people turning to drugs or alcohol.

“It’s beginning to normalize things that were not otherwise normalized,” said Dan Renaud.

He is in long-term recovery himself after struggling with alcohol addiction more than 30 years ago. He told ABC 27 it wasn’t until law enforcement and the Navy intervened that he got help.

“Had it not happened for me, I might not be doing what I’m doing. I might not even be here now,” Renaud explained. Now, he is an addiction counselor working in the Jacksonville area. He specializes in adolescent treatment.

Relapse is an issue in the Big Bend too.

“Typically, during this season we see low rates of admissions, but this year, we’re definitely seeing an increase in relapse,” said Heather Lincicome, a licensed clinical social worker who works at Tallahassee Memorial Behavioral Health Center. She said in 2020, she saw more cases than what she’s used to seeing.

For people who are struggling, TMH offers assistance via telemedicine.

“Don’t wait until you’re going through withdrawal and about to go into an act of crisis,” Lincicome added.

In addition, Roberts is working on virtual events to connect communities with resources that could save lives.

Those events include, “drive-through giveaways,” Roberts explained. “The community members come through, they’re able to give out that resource and info and keep everything moving.”

And for those in recovery, Renaud said virtual communities are growing stronger because of the pandemic.

“The recovery community now has really become a global family,” Renaud concluded.

Tallahassee Memorial Behavioral Health Center has a website where you can schedule appointments both in person and via telemedicine. Roberts said services like dialing 211 can also help if you’re struggling with relapse.