Dealing with addictions during lockdowns

My post earlier today about coffee and caffeine addiction made me think later about other addictions and how they are being handled during the lockdowns. For example, alcohol is a common addiction and while some states have declared alcohol stores to be essential services and thus allowed to be open, others have not exempted them from the lockdown. While it might be amusing to joke about alcohol being essential to getting through the boredom of staying at home, there is a more serious side, because closing the stores leaves addicts in those states desperate.

Someone I know is a physician in a state that did not exempt alcohol stores from the lockdown and he said that they have seen a influx of addicts coming to the emergency rooms because of severe withdrawal symptoms. Since they need the emergency room capacity to deal with the coronavirus cases, the addicts have been turned away untreated. While support groups for alcoholics have shifted, like so much else, to the online mode, they have their problems and may not be enough for some people trying to be sober.

That made me think about people who are addicted to harder, illegal drugs, who may have even more severe withdrawal symptoms. What will happen to them? Are their dealers still in business? Are the addicts still going out just to get their drugs? Addiction can make people do desperate things.


  1. says

    Here’s a very strange report from Northeastern Ohio.
    The daughter of a friend is a nurse practitioner who works a shift in an ER and also in an urgent care center.
    She is afraid of being laid off—she getting a minimum of hours now—because the usual idiots who she sees are staying away from hospitals for fear of being exposed to the virus.
    How crazy is that?

  2. Dunc says

    It’s a serious business -- acute alcohol withdrawal can be fatal. It’s actually much more dangerous than withdrawal from most street drugs

  3. jrkrideau says

    My province has explicitly designated liquor stores, marijuana shops, and beer stores is essential services. It was reported on CBC or one of the newspapers that it was recommended by the Chief Public Health Officer of the province. In the cases of the liquor stores it was done explicitly because of worries about alcohol withdrawal. As Dunc @ 2 says, “It’s a serious business — acute alcohol withdrawal can be fatal.” Even if not fatal, a case of alcohol withdrawal could add to the overloaded hospital emergency rooms.

    Then, there’s the worry that people will start consuming rubbing alcohol, Listerine, or anything else that seemed to have an alcohol content. I’ve actually heard of one case where a fairly desperate prison inmate tried drinking typewriter correction fluid. He died.

    I think there was also a concern about increased crime if alcoholics tried breaking and entering to get alcohol.

    …people who are addicted to harder, illegal drugs, who may have even more severe withdrawal symptoms. What will happen to them? Are their dealers still in business? Are the addicts still going out just to get their drugs?

    Speaking from personal experience, the crystal meth dealer next door is still doing a good business, though maybe a bit reduced from his normal volume.

  4. jrkrideau says

    She is afraid of being laid off…. How crazy is that?
    Well if you have a for-profit medical delivery model it makes sense. Of course, a for-profit delivery model for health services strikes me as totally insane and a bit perverted but if that’s the way it’s set up the layoff and, as I’ve read, reduced pay to physicians because the hospitals are not getting the regular volume of patients makes perfectly logical sense. Marcus @ Stdrr has a posting on a hospital company shutting down a hospital because operating it was going to lose money for the company.

    I believe word obscene comes to mind right now.

  5. Matt G says

    How long before we hear the argument that churches must stay open because withdrawal from religion has consequences? Actually, I would agree that this is possible.

  6. billseymour says

    I’m one of those fools who hasn’t been able to quit smoking yet; but I stocked up before the official lockdown where I live, so I have no idea whether tobacco shops are considered essential here. I’ll need to make a quick run to the grocery store on Tuesday; so maybe I’ll run by the tobacco shop I frequent, not to go in, but just to see if it’s open.

  7. says

    Matt G.
    Plenty of churches have moved to online services.
    I live in Texas. One of my friends in Minnesota has been sending me links to the Eastern Catholic church services he goes to. May break down and watch for the music.

  8. jrkrideau says

    @ 8 xohjoh2n
    unds like
    Is the show from Hollywood? IIRC, the white-out incident happened in California, back in the mid to late 1970s so the writers may have used it as a basis. The House plot is perfectly believable.

    I only remember the story because it was so bizarre.

    Come to think of it, now it is obvious why those prisoners in the New York prison could not use any of the hand sanitizer they were making. It likely had 60% alcohol in it which could be drunk or used in fires.

  9. GenghisFaun says

    In my hometown, Nashville, Tenn., not only have they deemed liquor stores as essential, they’ve approved delivery and curbside pickup of alcoholic beverages from stores and restaurants, too. I can get a margarita from a nearby Mexican restaurant or have packs of beer delivered from a local brewery.

    It was actually surprising how immediately they declared it would be legal. I believe they wanted to mitigate the impact to local restaurants as much as possible when they declared no more dine-in business.

  10. KG says

    As dunc@2 says, alcohol addicts suffer worse withdrawal symptoms than addicts of most illegal drugs -- in particular, worse than heroin, withdrawal from which, although very unpleasant, is unlikely to kill you. AFAIK, only barbiturates among street drugs are worse.

  11. lorn says

    Amen Dunc @ #2.

    Alcohol withdrawal, for the seriously addicted, can kill you. Patients need to be closely monitored and tapered off.

    The standard treatment for most opiates, according to my sister who ran a wing of a hospital dealing with substance abuse, was cold-turkey, isolation in a quiet, warm, dimly lit room, Tylenol, basic support to keep them nourished and hydrated, observation to make sure they didn’t do anything stupid, and time. I don’t mean to minimize their suffering, I’m sure it felt really bad, but my sister, who had herself gone through withdrawal, compared it to a bad cold.

    The other popular drug of concern are benzodiazepines. Mother’s little helper. Very popular in the day. Again, they need to be tapered off under medical supervision. Somewhat ironic that the two most popular drugs, alcohol and benzos, are harder to get off of safely than the drugs most likely named as dangerous.

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