I’m sure you know the drill by now:
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your face. And stay at home if you feel sick. What was initially mocked as “Just the Flu,” the novel strand of coronavirus is quickly putting a stranglehold on the global economy – and Americans are starting to feel the heat.
Just go to your local Walmart and try to buy a roll of toilet paper or bottle of hand sanitizer. It’s damn near impossible. But it’s not the lack of Charmin ® Ultra SoftTM that’s driving this mass panic. Rather, it’s the fact that one microscopic germ could land you in the hospital for a couple weeks. Or worse.
Because of this, government and healthcare officials are encouraging citizens to stay at home and avoid congregating in large settings of more than 10-50 people. But what effect does this social distancing policy have on healthcare facilities – in particular residential drug and alcohol rehab centers?
As a substance use treatment facility in Texas, we’ve been asked a lot of coronavirus-related questions recently from potential clients, and thought we’d share. Stonegate Center’s Top 4 Coronavirus Questions are as listed:
- Are drug addicts more at risk of contracting the coronavirus?
- Are addiction treatment centers shutting down because of the coronavirus?
- What policies are in place to ensure the health and safety of your inpatient rehab clients?
- Should I go to a substance use treatment facility at this time? Or stay at home?
The following article is intended to help those struggling with chemical dependency navigate their recovery options during this outbreak of COVID-19.
How Does Coronavirus Affect Those With Drug Addictions?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread person to person. Patients with coronavirus exhibit symptoms of fever, coughing, or shortness of breath; whereas, more severe complications can lead to diarrhea, pneumonia in both lungs, or respiratory and heart failure.
However, it’s not the fact that infected patients may feel under the weather for a week or two that causes addiction treatment professionals the most concern.
What’s worrisome is that coronavirus has the highest fatality rate amongst immunocompromised patients. In other words, people with weak immune systems (e.g. those with diabetes, allergies, or lupus) have a heightened risk of not only contracting the virus, but also dying from its effects. That’s why people over the age of 80 have a fatality rate of 14.8% if they test positive.
People addicted to drugs and alcohol have notably weaker immune systems and may have an increased risk of contracting the coronavirus compared to their non-addicted peers. We can infer this by looking at how drugs compromise your body’s defense system.
For instance, cocaine has been shown to lower T-cell counts in users, making them more susceptible to falling ill or even even contracting AIDS according to a UCLA study in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. As well, opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl, suppress your immune system’s ability to fight off bacterial and viral infections by blocking macrophages – your gut’s natural defender – from reaching infected areas.
And, it’s not just users of hard drugs that should be careful!
Chronic alcohol abuse can alter the structure of your gut’s most important cells. By doing so, your gut may be more permeable, or “leaky,” which may lead to toxic material from your intestines leaking into your bloodstream. This can cause your liver to become inflamed or swollen and even lead to more permanent conditions like cirrhosis.
Because of this, immunocompromised people, like those in active addiction, are encouraged to be more cognizant of their symptoms. This is because infected patients with weak immune systems tend to experience milder symptoms of the coronavirus due to their body’s hampered ability to mount a response. Therefore, contraction of the coronavirus could go unnoticed, leading to an uptick in person-to-person transmissions and hospital admissions.
PLEASE NOTE: The linkage between drug and alcohol use and coronavirus contraction is a statistical inference. To infer that substance abuse and coronavirus complications are related, I used two sources: (1) Peer-reviewed reviewed research found on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) platform, citing the effects of drugs on the body’s immune system and (2) coronavirus guidelines from the CDC for potential high-risk populations.
Currently, nothing has been published by researchers at the CDC or WHO directly linking the coronavirus and addiction. However, there is a direct linkage between immunocompromised individuals and coronavirus contraction. To prevent the spread of misinformation, we will continue to update this page as more information is published.
Are Addiction Rehab Centers Open During The Coronavirus Pandemic?
Substance abuse treatment facilities, like Stonegate Center, are open and accepting clients during this stressful time. Our goal is to provide top-notch clinical and medical care – all the while maintaining the health and safety of everyone on our campus.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Stonegate Center is abiding by the recommendations set forth by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). And, we will monitor their online platforms for any updates.
Additionally, we are also watching how our peers at Elements Behavioral Health and American Addiction Centers are handling the situation. Although we are, admittedly, in competition with these two service providers, we believe the health and well-being of all clients in need of addiction treatment services comes first. Because of that, we are committed to working together and sharing effective policies in regard to this outbreak.
Organizations like the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) have encouraged rehab centers to “Keep Calm and Carry On.” They have made no changes to its program scheduling guidelines and policies at this time and encourage us to remain calm because our patients look to us for direction and strength.
Currently, our daily program schedule for our Men’s Center and Women’s Center remains unchanged. Yet, we are conducting sessions in a more health-conscience manner (i.e. maintaining distance between others, not shaking hands, washing hands, etc.). We are in talks with management in regard to rolling out telehealth options to our clients during their group & individual therapy sessions.
Although our doors are open and admissions are allowed, it’s important to note that we have implemented several policies to ensure you or your loved one’s safety on our campus! These and other questions can be found below:
How Are Inpatient Rehabs Limiting The Exposure of Patients to the Coronavirus?
Limiting exposure of our patients to the coronavirus has become the tantamount concern to our staff these past several months. To do that, we’ve implemented health-related policies not only for our clients, but also our staff. Below is an overview of our approach:
Stonegate Center screens all patients prior to admission to assess for potential exposure to COVID-19. We want to know whether anyone joining our recovery community has (1) come into contact with a person diagnosed with coronavirus, (2) shows any signs or symptoms of illness, and (3) traveled into high-risk areas or out of the country within the past 14-days. After their pre-screen, we are asking all patients to go to detox before coming on campus so they can get tested. Patients cleared by medical staff will be allowed to admit.
Once on site, new admits are seen by our Medical staff within 24 hours for one last double-check. Articles of clothing are then taken to our Hot Room, which is an insulated room that can reach temperatures of up to 130-degrees Fahrenheit. While this primarily kills off any bed bugs, in theory it should also help to denature proteins within the coronavirus. Since this strand is novel, no research has yet to confirm the efficacy of this approach; however, data on the influenza shows that higher temperatures may slow the spread of viruses.
There’s no doubt that new admits are a potential source of COVID-19 transmission into our facility if not properly screened. However, our staff members are as well. To limit our clients’ exposure, Stonegate Center team members are told to stay home if they present flu-like symptoms (e.g. coughing or fever) or have come into contact with who does. If so, we are requesting at-risk employees to self-quarantine for 14-days from the initial contact.
Our Medical Director and Director of Compliance have called for and implemented additional staff training regarding the coronavirus. Staff are educated on how to properly conduct their daily duties all the while ensuring each patient’s overall health and well-being during our treatment program. Screening measures for Stonegate Center employees has been rolled out and all outside hiring has been frozen.
Effective immediately, Stonegate Center will suspend all visitation, alumni meetings, and outside groups or speakers from coming onto campus until further notice. Because we are big on family involvement and offer a two-part Family Program, we are preparing a new policy that calls for further communication between our clients’ families and their assigned clinician to keep them well-informed during this stressful time. Furthermore, all outside FedEx, UPS, or Sysco deliveries are not allowed inside the main building unless permitted.
We understand this policy may cause some discomfort for our client’s families. Because of that, we are encouraging our families to write more letters while we explore alternative methods for visitation (e.g. video conferencing). If you’re loved one is a current client at our facility, please reach out to your assigned point of contact or email us at email@example.com for more clarity.
At Stonegate Center, we are big on community as a tool to help our clients achieve lifelong recovery, but also a source of COVID-19 transmission. To impede the spread of coronavirus at our rehab center, our new policy asks clients to (1) remain vigilant of their health and report any flu-like symptoms immediately, (2) refrain from hugging, handshaking, or touching fellow peers (i.e. when we previously huddled together for prayer circle), (3) sanitize their hands frequently, (4) hold group sessions outside, and (5) isolate in one of our private rooms if coronavirus-like symptoms manifest.
Keeping our facility clean is another step we are taking to ensure the safety of our clients from contracting the coronavirus. We regularly deep clean our buildings. However, we have taken cleanliness to the next level based on WHO and CDC recommendations. For instance, hand sanitizer is available in each room, door handles and high-traffic zones are wiped down frequently, and quarantine rooms are available.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) – like gloves, eye protection, and facemasks – are available for our direct-care staff upon request. And, non-essential healthcare personnel are restricted from entering the building. Currently, we are working on staggering times our clients eat at our communal dining hall and limiting close-contact experiential therapy (e.g. ropes course).
Should I Go To Rehab During This Time?
Yes! Without a doubt.
We take the coronavirus outbreak very seriously here, but don’t let that stop you from getting free from drug and alcohol addiction. There are roughly 23 million Americans that are addicted to drugs and alcohol right now – with alcohol killing about 88,000 people in the U.S. per year. And, roughly 46,000 people die from opioid-involved overdoses per year as well.
Although the CDC is predicting a huge surge in coronavirus cases in the U.S., they are not suggesting we withhold addiction treatment services to our clientele in order to prevent the spread of this respiratory illness. Plus, with governing bodies and employers suspending business activity, this could be an optimal time to seek treatment for your chemical dependency.
All-in-all, rehab centers are being encouraged to remain operational and continue to save those struggling with substance abuse issues. Because of that, Stonegate Center will remain open and accept all patients who meet our eligibility requirements for inpatient drug and alcohol treatment.
PLEASE NOTE: If you do intend to seek treatment for your addiction, make sure your potential treatment center has a coronavirus risk management policy in place. If they don’t, I suggest you find treatment elsewhere.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse or drug addiction, we are here to help! We aren’t going anywhere despite this coronavirus outbreak, and we have implemented strict policies to ensure the health and safety of our clients.
Our Admissions Specialists, who are in long-term recovery themselves, can be reached by phone at (817) 993-9733 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. So, don’t be shy as they can answer any and all rehab- or addiction-related questions you may have.
Our clinical model is based on a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach and our values are rooted in Christian principles. Daily programming includes individual and group therapy sessions, life skills and educational classes, experiential therapy (e.g. equine therapy), as well as our two-part Family Program that is optional but highly recommended.
We look forward to helping our families and friends looking for a drug rehab near the Fort Worth area. Although our center is located just outside the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex, we’ve catered our services to help families from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, New York, Florida, and more.
Stay safe out there! But more importantly, stay sober.
John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction as well as the pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center’s status at the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content creation. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.