Of the many ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected public health and well-being, substance use and misuse have been paramount, says Jonathan Avery, MD, director of Addiction Psychiatry and associate professor of clinical psychiatry. “All the risk factors for addiction—mental and physical health issues, trauma, isolation, financial stress, family stress—have increased, so we are seeing so many people drinking more,” Dr. Avery says.
Moreover, many of the coping mechanisms that people relied on before the pandemic, like working out at the gym or traveling, have been off limits. Plus, physical distancing has reduced access to treatment services. As a result, Dr. Avery says, “Alcohol consumption among adults increased by 14% from 2019 to 2020, and 41% among women, in particular.”
Yet, millions of Americans who have struggled with addiction have transformed their lives through recovery--a specialty of Weill Cornell Medicine. The Weill Cornell/New York-Presbyterian Program for Substance Use and Stigma of Addiction is dedicated to combating the negative attitudes that exist towards individuals with substance use disorders. It focuses on the stigma towards addiction that exists not only in the medical community but also in places that should be the safest--families, workplaces, and the justice system.
WCM’s team of experts has designed a variety of in-person and online interventions to address and eliminate the stigma of addiction, including:
- Grief Recovery After Substance Passing (GRASP), which offers understanding, compassion, and support for those who have lost a loved one to addiction and overdose.
- The Naloxone Rescue Kit Program uses the critical window of opportunity in the hours after a near-death experience to offer help.
- The Peer Recovery Program offers support and community for individuals with substance use disorders by bringing peers--individuals with a lived substance use history--into inpatient settings. Peers offer empathic, compassionate connection to patients through shared experiences. They actively listen to the individual who is battling addiction and strive to foster a collaborative relationship that reflects the individual’s goals, values, and beliefs. They also teach harm reduction strategies, such as naloxone use or help to connect individuals with medication-assisted treatment plans or clean-needle exchanges.
- The Youth Nicotine Program, which caters to individuals 16 years and older is led by WCM psychiatrists who specialize in addictive disorders. The program’s office-based services include counseling, psychotherapy (including cognitive behavioral therapy), medication management (nicotine replacement and combination therapy), and relapse prevention strategies.
- The Midtown Center of Cornell University's Weill Medical College is a comprehensive outpatient program that evaluates and treats chemically dependent individuals and their significant others. The program is licensed by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) as a Medically Supervised Ambulatory Substance Abuse Treatment Program. Its research staff participate in cutting-edge research exploring the mechanisms and treatment of substance abuse, while its clinical team of experts in medicine, psychology, and social work all have a special interest and certification in the field of alcoholism and substance abuse.