Baptist Establishes Emergency Hotline to Stop Drug Overdoses During COVID-19
Drug overdoses in Memphis have risen sharply during the coronavirus pandemic. Officials say more than 100 people have died in Shelby County of drug overdoses since mid-March. Some experts point to the COVID-19 pandemic as a possible cause. People with substance use disorder are vulnerable, especially those who are isolated.
To save lives from drug overdoses involving heroin, fentanyl and other opioids, Baptist’s Center of Excellence in Addiction Medicine established a 24/7 hotline. People in crisis are encouraged to call if they need immediate help. The Center of Excellence in Addiction Medicine is a partnership between Baptist Memorial Health Care and Bartlett-based Integrated Addiction Care Associates.
“This is a tragedy at any time, but it is especially unfortunate as people shelter in place and practice social distancing in response to COVID-19,” said Dr. David Stern, CEO of Integrated Addiction Care Associates. “If you are on the verge of relapsing or have already relapsed, please call 901-421-5336 or 833-330-3322 (a toll-free number) to speak with an addiction medicine specialist. This hotline is unique because callers speak to a physician who specializes in addiction medicine who can navigate them to medical treatment in real time. Also, we are connected to a health care system, so we can offer multiple treatment avenues depending on the caller’s needs.”
Stress and the Risk of Relapse or Overdose
Stress negatively affects mental and physical health, and it often contributes to relapses and overdoses. People may feel isolated at home, estranged from family and friends, afraid or hopeless about losing a job and unsure if they have treatment options during a pandemic.
Stern said the best thing individuals struggling with substance use disorder can do during the coronavirus pandemic is reach out.
“The hotline is designed to assist callers back into a safety zone and away from a dangerous overdose,” said Stern.
In addition to counseling, addiction medicine specialists may direct callers to the nearest Baptist Memorial Hospital emergency department for immediate medical care if they require relief from cravings or treatment for injuries.
Specialists can also help callers schedule an appointment with an Integrated Addiction Care Associates addiction medicine physician to define a clearer path to treatment and recovery.
Tips for Dealing with Addiction at Home
If you are living with a substance use disorder and are having difficulty maintaining sobriety, know that you are not alone. Restrictions as a result of COVID-19 may feel like an extra burden, but it’s important to remember that rules, such as social distancing and wearing masks, are designed to keep everyone safe and healthy.
The coronavirus places those who use opioids in a vulnerable position because these drugs negatively impact respiratory health. Individuals navigating addiction issues during the pandemic can follow a few tips to promote health and well-being at home:
- Stay out of risky situations
- Regularly communicate with supportive loved ones via phone or webcam
- Attend virtual support group meetings online
- Manage urges to use drugs and/or alcohol, especially when alone
- Find an activity that means something to you, such as yoga or baking
- Do a relaxing activity, such as reading a book or watching a movie
Even in times of stress and uncertainty, health must be a priority. Support and treatment services remain critical during COVID-19. If you or a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol and in a crisis situation, contact Baptist’s Center of Excellence in Addiction Medicine hotline at 901-421-5336 or toll free at 833-330-3322 to speak with an addiction medicine specialist.