How has the COVID-19 outbreak impacted those in addiction and recovery?

Coronavirus Impact on Addiction and Recovery

The impact of COVID-19 on those in addiction and recovery was quantified in a nationwide survey released by JourneyPure on April 13, 2020. 

Results show that the COVID-19 pandemic makes it harder for those in recovery to avoid relapse and less likely for those struggling to seek treatment. An increase in indirect COVID-19 deaths by way of drug and alcohol overdoses is inevitable. 


Key Findings

39% of people said the COVID-19 outbreak made them give up on seeking treatment for their addiction. The age bracket citing the least impact from COVID-19 on seeking addiction treatment was the youngest group, age 25-34.

Pie chart - which of the following best describes your decision to see treatment?

There is a reported 20% increase in the difficulty of managing addiction during the COVID-19 crisis compared to before the virus. Men’s recovery is more affected by the current situation than women – 23% versus 17%. Specifically, men ages 35-44 report the highest difficultly at 30%. (JourneyPure alumni report only a 5% increase).

Percent Change in Difficulty Managing Addiction During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Family members underestimate the increased difficulty for their loved one in managing their addiction during the COVID-19 crisis with a difference of 58%.

The number one reason cited for the increased difficulty in managing addiction during coronavirus quarantine was isolation from friends, reported by 52% of respondents. For women, isolation from family ranked slightly higher than friends.

Bar Graph > Which of the following aspects related to COVID-19 have affected your ability to manage addiction?


Those in addiction often look for excuses to delay treatment. The panic of coronavirus helps justify putting off seeking help, even though addiction is also a deadly disease. For perspective, drugs and alcohol kill 10 times the number of Americans every year as the latest COVID-19 statistics. (As of 4/13, the CDC has reported 21,942 coronavirus deaths and counting).

The restrictions brought on by COVID-19 containment measures set many in recovery up for relapse. Across the country, professionals that treat addiction are reporting increased relapse rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Isolation is a known contributor to relapse. Stress, uncertainty and unemployment are all also relapse triggers. Many can’t access lifesaving medications, like Subutex, that are vital to maintaining their sobriety.

Ultimately, it is a lose-lose situation with too many causalities.

Practical Tips to Help

If you’re struggling with addiction or have relapsed, get help.

Those in recovery should:

  • Maintain a routine. The disruption of quarantine can make you feel directionless or just plain bored. Even if you lost your job, get up early, shower, apply for jobs or take on side work. Don’t Netflix binge the day away. Make a plan of things you can accomplish and check a few things off the list every day. Stay active using at-home workout videos, fitness apps or just go outside for a walk. Then, get a full 8 hours of sleep at night. Feeling rested and in control of a purposeful day is important.
  • Refill and take all medications. Most therapists and clinics e-prescribe anyway. 
  • Set up a time to talk daily with others in recovery in the form of one-on-one calls or virtual meetings. Take the call in your car if there are others in the house that prevent you from fully opening up.
  • Reach out if you’re struggling. Don’t get sucked into the isolation. You still have your network of recovery friends and mentors that will listen and help you get to a better place mentally. If you need more support, there are plenty of telehealth options for therapy.
    • JourneyPure telecare is available to anyone in Tennessee, Kentucky or Florida.
  • Stay informed, but not obsessed. Information can reduce anxiety, but with all the coverage and misinformation it’s easy to be overwhelmed with panic or negativity. Follow core sources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and your local health department. Be self-aware. If it’s causing you distress, stop checking.
  • Abide by all CDC and local regulations. In addiction, we live recklessly with a disregard for our own health. Take COVID-19 seriously.  We’re doing this to literally save lives. Only leave your house for essentials and don’t leave at all if you have any symptoms. Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.

As a recovery community, we need to be reaching out and supporting each other. Be the one to take your home group virtual. (Conference lines and Google Hangouts are free).  Or, just share virtual resources on your social media or to your friends in recovery. Anything from online meeting schedules to apps or exercises that help you just might be what someone else needs right now.

Lastly, family members should be more aware of the strain of COVID-19 on recovery. Make time to talk to your loved one on a deeper level over the phone and offer virtual resources you find. Remember, the data shows that they are likely struggling right now more than you know.


Quantify the impact of COVID-19 on the recovery community conducted through three nationwide questionnaires. 


Conducted by a third-party research vendor on behalf of JourneyPure on April 10. United States only. 628 results in total. 150 self-identified as having a family member that is in recovery.  150 self-identified as being in recovery. 328 are JourneyPure alumni, which inherently means they were treated for addiction. 

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