The coronavirus pandemic has hit especially hard for those in substance recovery programs across Illinois.
The state's stay-at-home order has limited the amount of available resources and forced rehab facilities to limit who they can accept.
Some, like Banyan Treatment Center Chicago Director of Operations Brad Gerke, also fear the risk of overdosing has increased during the pandemic.
“Relapse has gone up, along with overdose deaths, from what I’m witnessing firsthand,” Gerke said.
As recovering addicts themselves, Gerke and his wife Jessica’s greatest fear may be unfolding as many are stuck in solitude under Illinois’ stay-at-home order.
“Sitting in their own head is probably one of the most dangerous places,” Jessica Gerke said. “So the isolation is really taking effect.”
As the couple continues to help other addicts through recovery at the Banyan Treatment Center in Naperville, their operations have changed as critical 12-step meetings shifted from in-person to a virtual setting.
Other recovery facilities are forced to limit admission and patients may require quarantine, while some centers are not accepting new patients at all.
And even if an addict is admitted, many can’t afford the treatment to get sober because they’ve lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“People don’t have the resources available to them,” explained Brad Gerke. “So they’re going to seek what they’re used to, which is that use of drugs and alcohol to make them feel better.”
Now, because of social distancing and isolation, if a person overdoses, life-saving medicine to reverse a drug’s deadly effects could be rendered useless with no one around to administer it.
The Gerke’s recommend those in recovery stay connected to friends and loved ones, keep emergency contacts on hand and try to follow a routine when alone.
“One thing we know about people who struggle with addiction is, they’re obviously survivors,” Jessica Gerke encouraged. “And we’re going to get through this.”
If you or anyone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please call the Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances at (833)-2FINDHELP.