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Healthier Together: Virtual treatment for substance abuse

Posted at 9:13 AM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 11:13:52-04

20 million Americans struggle with substance abuse, and experts say during the pandemic the situation has only gotten worse. But there are new treatment options that can help take away the stigma often associated with getting help.

Dr. Hossam Maumoud, Behavioral Health Medical Director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield says, "What has happened with the COVID-19 pandemic is that the crisis has worsened."

Mahmoud says opioid and alcohol abuse is only compounded by our current situation. "It is becoming harder and harder to detect the signs and symptoms of substance use because of our physical distancing."

Mahmoud says there are three things to keep an eye out for if you suspect a loved one is dealing with substance abuse:

  1. Behavioral changes - withdrawn or unable to complete tasks at work
  2. Physical changes - physical changes like weight loss or a change in sleep habits or glazed eyes
  3. Family history of addiction - if someone has family members battling addiction, it increases the risk

The good news? Treatment is available, and it's not just limited to in-person services.

Dr. Alyson Smith, Medical Director for outpatient treatment telehealth center Boulder Care says, "We recognize it takes a lot of strength to make that call. We’re able to provide the care they need in a way that’s working for people."

Boulder Care's patients receive confidential, at home treatment, taking away the stigma typically keeping those struggling with substance abuse from getting the help they need.

"People suffering from substance abuse disorders often are met with judgment and treated really poorly when they enter the medical system, and that, sadly, really encourages them to avoid seeking care," says Smith.

Some communities also have very limited resources, which is why Smith says a virtual treatment option is so important.

"Our data at Boulder Care suggests that virtual care for substance use disorders is extremely effective," she says.

To find out more about treatment options in your community visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at SAMHSA.gov.