“When it comes to alcohol and substance [misuse], isolation, broadly speaking, is the most savage symptom [people] struggle with psychologically,” says Kevin Gilliland, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and the executive director of Innovation360, an outpatient counseling service that works with people living with substance use disorder. This is one major reason he says there’s been such a spike in opioid use and opioid-related deaths during the pandemic. “Isolation is terrible for humans, for our mood, for anxiety, and for substance [misuse] or dependence.”
Dr. Gilliland says that for those in recovery, human interaction is vital for maintaining sobriety. “[During the pandemic,] so many people have become disconnected to things in their life that were just good medicine, such as seeing familiar faces in their neighborhoods at the store, going to the gym, and attending religious services,” he says.