Drug treatment counselor discusses substance abuse during pandemic

VALLEY COTTAGE — Adrienne Voltaire of the Lexington Center for Recovery in Valley Cottage shared her thoughts on the issue of drug addiction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The drug treatment counselor reports that the patients in the outpatient clinic have been engaged in treatment, even from a distance. “With some people, I’ve seen an increase in attendance at meetings because they were able to do it from their home,” she said. 

Voltaire emphasizes that having a network of people to go to despite the isolation helps for those in recovery.“I hear that from a lot of people that having that support in place, from their years in recovery, has made the ability to weather this situation much easier,” she said.

Still, there have been some alleged setbacks. 

As part of her job, Voltaire sits on calls with the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, or OASAS, where she has heard stories of increased overdoses in certain Hudson Valley communities.

While there is no hard data available yet, Voltaire believes that deaths and overdoses in the area have increased. However, there have been no reported instances in the clinic as of yet. “Treatment is a protective factor,” she said. “Even if [the patients] are relapsing, if they are engaged in some sort of treatment, these are not the individuals who are overdosing and dying.” 

A recovering addict herself, Voltaire balances her own recovery with her work at the clinic. She continues to attend 12-step programs virtually. “What I’ve found, personally, is that the 12-step groups and organizations really stepped up to create online platforms for meetings to continue,” she said. 

When it comes to treating her patients, Voltaire implements a holistic approach. 

“I’m looking at all the factors that are contributing to someone’s substance use disorder if that’s what they’re there to see me for,” she said. “I’m looking at the whole person and I think that the key in health care across the board is a more integrative approach.”

Voltaire is using her role as a drug treatment counselor to bring a face to a health issue that has long been stigmatized. “Addicts and or people with mental illness are your neighbors, they’re your friends, they’re your teachers, they’re your doctors,” she said. “And there’s no reason why anyone should be shamed for having the same access to treatment in healthcare, because these are health problems.”

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