Pandemic adds fire to alcohol abuse

BOSTON — A yard is full of flags in Whitinsville outside of “NOWA – No One Walks Alone,” a program for family continuity. Each one standing for a life lost to addiction in the local area.

“Family members have come and planted the flag,” said Rebecca Zwicker of Program Director at NOWA Peer Recovery Support Center.

The NOWA team knows firsthand the challenges of addiction during a pandemic.

“During a TED talk, they say the opposite of addiction is connection,” Zwicker said.

Connection can be hard to come by due to COVID-19, but one option has remained constant.

“When everything shut down, liquor stores did not, they remained open,” Zwicker said.

A dangerous mix for a downward spiral of alcoholism.

“Will I ever get out of this? Will this end? Again, with COVID and addiction, know we’ve got two things we are battling,” said Matthew Gear of the NOWA Recovery Center.

Alarming repercussions are being noticed at some of the state’s top hospitals like Massachusetts General Hospital.

”What we have seen is a little bit of gasoline added to the fire. What COVID has done over the past year has really accelerated and intensified a problem that has existed for sometime,” said Dr. Raymond Chung, the director of Hepatology and Liver Center at Mass. General.

The cases are also more dire during the pandemic year compared to a time frame from a normal year.

“Moreover, if you look at the outcomes of those patients of mortality of about 50 percent,” said Dr. Chung.

However, there are places to get help before that alcoholism reaches that final stage.

“We’re treating a pandemic in the midst of an epidemic,” Richard Curcuru, CEO and president of Gosnold.

Gosnold has 11 facilities, mostly on the Cape.

“What we’ve seen is the larger the larger percentage of patients coming into our treatment facilities is definitely related to alcoholism and not the opiate addiction,” Curcuru said.

Back at NOWA, they are standing by to help as well.

“A lot of people in recovery is missing that piece of being connected of having somebody there,” said Marguerite Mowry of NOWA, Woman in Recovery.

They’re a hand to hold on to, even if it’s a virtual one.

“Our goal here is to help them get connected, so just being lost and not having that direction of guidance or how to get connected,” Zwicker said.

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