Addiction "has nowhere to hide" during pandemic

Big demand for addiction support services
  • Deborah Condon

One of the country's best-known residential addiction treatment centres has reported a high demand for addiction support services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Rutland Centre in Dublin, which treats a range of addictions, including alcohol, drugs and gambling, the last few months has been a challenging time for everybody, but particularly families affected by addiction.

"This period has been a hugely challenging time for families and especially so for those in which a family member is in recovery from, or in, active addiction.

"At the beginning of the lockdown period, the phonelines became quiet, but as people began to adjust to the new normal, we have been experiencing a consistent increase in calls to the point that the phonelines are now busier than what we would expect," explained the centre's clinical manager, Emma Kavanagh.

She said that what appears to be happening in many cases is that addictive bahviour "has become more visible in the family home and the pandemic may well have highlighted just how serious a family member's problem behaviour is".

"The result is that the addiction has nowhere to hide and the impact on family life and on other family members is quite significant," she noted.

Ms Kavanagh said that many of those in recovery have been looking for support to cope with increased anxiety and feelings of isolation and loneliness caused by the pandemic.

The centre is also also concerned about the formation of other maladaptive behaviours among those in recovery, caused by the lack of access to the usual coping and support strategies that would normally be recommend.

"During the crisis, in many cases people have not had access to the face-to-face support of family members, friends and peers, and have been relying on new measures to cope, some of which have the potential to develop into unhealthy habits in their own right.

"For example, people have had to become self-reliant or over reliant on online platforms. In the long-term we would see these as unhealthy habits that are counter productive to the philosophy of recovery," Ms Kavanagh explained.

During the pandemic, the centre had temporarily suspended new admissions. However, it had been offering a full service including peer and phone support to its clients enrolled in its aftercare programme (i.e. those who had completed the centre's five-week residential treatment programme).

The centre plans to resume full services, including residential treatment, outpatient therapy and aftercare services, from June 15.

"We are working hard now to ensure our premises and our processes are fully compliant with public health guidance from the HSE and the Health Safety Authority, so that the people who have been contacting us can get the help that they need in a safe, comfortable and trusted environment," commented the centre's CEO, Maebh Mullany.

For more information on the centre, click here.


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