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Webinar offers lifeline to addicts in isolation

People struggling from alcoholism and drug addiction have been assured they will not have to “suffer in silence” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health experts have warned that those dependent on alcohol and drugs are more likely to relapse as their routines are disrupted during isolation and quarantine. But, in an effort to prevent potential problems, Solstice, a holistic wellness centre in Hamilton, will broadcast a webinar called “Managing with addiction during Covid-19” from 4pm today.

It will be hosted by Gordon Johnson, from Solstice, and feature consultant psychiatrist Grant Farquhar, who believes staying connected is crucial during this time of increased anxiety.

Dr Farquhar said: “It's about connection; you can connect with your support network, your loved ones and friends, online via apps such as FaceTime and Skype.

“That's exactly what we will be doing during the webinar. The main thing is that people don't have to suffer in silence unnecessarily.”

In the absence of even the most mundane of interactions, and with more people worried about issues such as job security, Dr Farquhar is concerned about those coping with alcohol addiction.

He also believes those still actively using drugs could be forced into a period of abstinence because of supply chain disruptions and be at risk of acute withdrawal.

Dr Farquhar said: “There are a massive number of stressors out there because of coronavirus and for those people struggling with addiction, it could cause a relapse.

“For people who are actively still using, the disruption of normal life and normal supplies may result in them having to go into a ‘cold turkey' situation.

“Heroin withdrawal is extremely unpleasant and can cause serious cardiovascular stress.

“Meanwhile, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal; a severe withdrawal state can result in seizures and even death.

“There are other addictions, but they don't tend to be life threatening with their withdrawal symptoms.”

Dr Farquhar said people can participate in the webinar anonymously if they are uncomfortable sharing their identity.

Dr Farquhar said: “It's such a small community that there's no such thing as anonymity in Bermuda.

“People can just observe [the webinar] without having to disclose their identity because there's a lot of stigma around mental illness, especially addiction.”

Dr Farquhar said he was still offering one-on-one appointments through Solstice via conference calls and would be able to manage people's withdrawal through medication and medical monitoring.

He added: “The insurance companies have agreed to fund videoconference appointments, which were previously face-to-face. I can manage home-based detox consultation via video conference and by e-mailing prescriptions to pharmacies.

Dr Farquhar added: “I would prescribe medication to get rid of the withdrawal symptom, which would be tailored depending on the severity of the abuse, and taper that off over seven days.

“That's how long it takes the brain to adjust. This is a way to navigate out of that.

“We have also some charity money from the Bank of Bermuda Foundation, which means we can treat some people for nothing.”

To join the webinar, e-mail Gordon Johnson at Gordon@solstice.bm

Important connections: Grant Farquhar

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Published March 30, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 30, 2020 at 7:45 am)

Webinar offers lifeline to addicts in isolation

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