The Loneliness Of Addiction Magnified During COVID19 Pandemic

By Dr. John Rosa

As the COVID19 pandemic continues with no ending point in sight, getting help for drug addiction is more important than ever. Unfortunately help for addicts is not readily available with the closure of clinics for medication assisted treatments and well as alternatives for chronic pain management. And social distancing requirements make it even more difficult on addicts


This lack of help and human interaction for people in recovery from drug addiction is creating the perfect environment for relapse. At least those who suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) still have access to alcohol since liquor stores have been deemed essential businesses in most states. In addition there is very limited medical treatment for AUD and keeping people out of hospitals is important.  This is one important reason why liquor stores have been deemed essential. There are more than 15 million people in the U.S. who have AUD and it’s imperative they have access to their substance of choice.


Without an equivalent method of help for drug addiction, the rate of relapse and overdoses will put an even greater demand on hospitals that are already overburdened with COVID19 patients.


The Rat Park Experiment Proves How Loneliness Fuels Addiction

Drug addiction is a disease. It is a disease caused by loneliness, fear and uncertainty. To help anyone who may be unfamiliar with how loneliness fuels addiction, I am posting the results of a famous experiment called The Rat Park Experiment as posted on.


“One of the most infamous drug experiments that was proliferated during the “War on Drugs” era in the United States was the rat experiment. Rats were placed in a cage containing a feeder bottle of water laced with cocaine and, unsurprisingly, they consumed the cocaine in enormous quantities until they died. This experiment supposedly displayed why even just trying an illicit substance could get you hooked, but it didn’t satisfy Bruce Alexander, a researcher at Simon Fraser University.”


“He recreated the experiment and tweaked one important variable: the cage. In the original experiment, the rats were in a small cage by themselves with no company, no space, and no exercise toys to play with. In Bruce’s new experiment, he constructed Rat Park, filled with everything a rat could desire from tunnels and turn wheels to other rats to play with. This time around, none of the rats got hooked on the drug laced water, which this time was a morphine drip. Alexander’s main point was that it wasn’t necessarily the drug that created addicts, but the cage they were trapped in that drove them to become addicts. When a rat had plenty of things to do, space to be free, and other rats to socialize with, it was far less likely to develop a crippling addiction.”


Efforts Must Be Made To Keep Addicts Safe From Withdrawal, Relapse And Overdose

I imagine by now regular folks who are not addicted to drugs or alcohol are beginning to feel the pressure of social isolation. Some of these people may decide to have a drink. Some may even experiment with drugs. This challenging time is helping many people understand how easy it is to fall prey to addiction during times of uncertainty, fear and loneliness. If you have a loved one who is addicted to drugs, please reach out as often as you can to help them get through this challenging time. Explore the use of digital platforms to have virtual visits if possible. This is not an easy time for anyone and it is particularly difficult for anyone addicted to opioids, alcohol and drugs of any kind.