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The epidemic after a pandemic: How COVID-19 impacted substance use issues

The epidemic after a pandemic: How COVID-19 impacted substance use issues (Photo: KUTV)
The epidemic after a pandemic: How COVID-19 impacted substance use issues (Photo: KUTV)
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The COVID-19 pandemic touched every aspect of life, including addiction.

The Addicted Utah team has kept a close eye on addiction and recovery trends during the last year.

The pandemic in many cases has made substance use issues worse. Isolation, lockdowns, social distancing and virtual treatment sessions are just a few of the hurdles people needed to overcome.

The Addicted Utah team gathered the experts to talk about the epidemic after a pandemic.

Dr. Mark Greenwood, chief medical officer of Molina Healthcare of Utah, and DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Jay Tinkler first joined Jim Spiewak to talk about what they observed regarding addiction and drug supply during the pandemic.

After a report on preliminary overdose deaths from the past year, Jeff Salas talked with Jim about what it's like to struggle with addiction during a pandemic. Salas is currently in treatment with Odyssey House.

One thing that had to make major changes during the pandemic was addiction treatment.

Dr. Paula Cook, medical director for Odyssey House, and Dr. Elizabeth Howell, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah and Huntsman Mental Health Institute join Jim to discuss how treatment evolved, what improvements need to made, and what changes are here to stay.

Treatment isn't always affordable, and insurance has often been an obstacle for people seeking help. Dr. Cook from Odyssey House and Dr. Greenwood of Molina Healthcare discussed how treatment could be more easily accessed and substance use disorder treated more like a disease in the medical arena.

Before the pandemic, experts were already worried about meth use in Utah. A lot of attention is given to opioids, but they believe meth is a real epidemic in the state.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Jay Tinkler and Dr. Elizabeth Howell return to talk with Jim about this meth epidemic--where does it come from and why is it so dangerous?

More people are now struggling after dealing with isolation and stress during the pandemic. There are ways to cope instead of turning to substances.

Dr. Howell and Misty McIntyre Goodsell, a licensed clinical social worker, give their suggestions on what people can do to get help dealing with the stress, depression, and anxiety.

They also discussed a controversial subject--using medical cannabis to aid sobriety. Both Howell and McIntyre Goodsell say that right now, there is no good evidence to show this is an effective method.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder or any addiction issues, the most important thing to do is reach out and get help.

Mary Jo McMillen is the executive director of USARA, or Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness. She talked with Jim Spiewak about what recovery resources are available to people in need.

Jeff Salas, who is in treatment, came back to share his story and encouragement he feels after finding help for himself.

For resources, you can visit the Addicted Utah resources page.

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