Counselors promise hope as substance use surges amid pandemic


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Substance use disorders have increased since coronavirus restrictions were put in place, but even as Americans navigate every inch of the pandemic, healing is still possible.

“It’s been difficult not seeing people in person,” Shelby Kendrick said.

Kendrick faces another challenge as she continues kicking her addiction to heroin.

“There’s just something about the atmosphere of being in a room full of people who understand what you’re going through,” Kendrick said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Kendrick and others recovering from addiction found comfort in Sanford Addiction Treatment Centers’ in-person programs. That’s now changed.

“We have moved to Zoom,” said Ellen Jones, who’s recovering from addiction.

That connection is strong.

“I’ve definitely found my stride and found what’s worked for me,” Jones said.

Jones said she uses virtual support to cope with a history of alcoholism, refusing to let isolation send her into relapse. But it’s not that cut and dry for everyone.

“Isolation is really the worst enemy of this disease,” said Rae Green, founder and president of Sanford Addiction Treatment Centers.

There’s been an increase in substance use likely due to stress, social distancing guidance and stay-at-home orders, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse spotlights a spring survey that polled more than 1,000 people nationwide with substance use disorders. The data shows 20% of the respondents said their own or a family member’s substance use had increased since the pandemic started.

“Our admissions counselors are seeing desperate pleas for help, a lot of first-time callers,” Green said. “It’s almost become a hotline of sorts.”

Counselors want you to ring their lines for relief, promising hope to any.

“Virtual recovery is the best alternative we have right now,” Kendrick said.

Founders of Sanford Addiction Treatment Centers said they closed their doors after a couple staff members tested positive for COVID-19 last month. Facilities will reopen Monday and offer in-person programs at half capacity.

Masks and social distancing will be required.

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