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The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world in a variety of ways, and the long-term effects of the virus and the world’s reaction to it have yet to be fully realized. However, recent research has indicated that those diagnosed with COVID-19 could have lasting physical and mental health symptoms months and years later. While this certainly isn’t good news for anyone who’s contracted the virus, it could be detrimental to those recovering from substance use disorder (SUD). Cultivating a healthy physical and mental state is essential to successful long-term recovery.

Understanding the effects that COVID-19 may have on someone’s mental and physical well-being could help them to prepare for and maintain sobriety. 

Long-Term Effects of COVID-19

When COVID-19 ravaged the world in 2020, those in recovery greatly struggled. Not only were they at greater risk because of the virus itself, but also the isolation that came with it. The importance of community in the recovery process cannot be understated, and being isolated from friends and family greatly impacted many people in recovery. However, even now that these temporary restrictions have been lifted, the long-term effects of COVID-19 may still pose a threat to those in recovery.

The ways in which the COVID-19 virus affects individuals years and decades after they’ve contracted the virus are still largely unknown. However, ongoing research indicates that those diagnosed with COVID-19 can have lingering physical and mental effects months and even years later. Many of these effects could prove to be particularly challenging to those in recovery.

Physical Effects

COVID-19 can have various physical effects on a person depending on their health before contracting the virus, their access to resources, etc. However, some of the most common physical symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Lowered physical capacity
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Long-term anosmia

Mental Effects

In addition to physical effects, a variety of mental effects have been seen in patients after their COVID-19 recovery. These symptoms include:

  • Mood swings
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Memory impairment

Impacts on Recovery

In specific cases, it’s possible that the physical effects of COVID-19 may cause some people to turn to opioids for relief. Opioids are often prescribed by doctors for a variety of reasons, though opioid use outside of doctor supervision could have serious consequences. When taken without a prescription or in large doses, opioids can be highly addictive and could pose serious mental and physical threats. For example, opioid abuse could result in severe respiratory failure or even death. If the long-term physical effects of COVID-19 are substantial enough in certain individuals, avoiding opioid abuse could be an obstacle in their path to recovery. 

Often, SUDs can manifest as a maladaptive strategy for coping with mental health issues. People with physical or mental health disorders may turn to vices, such as drugs or alcohol, as a means of coping with distressing symptoms rather than getting the proper help they need. Thus, the long-term effects of COVID-19 — such as depressed mood and anxiety — pose a serious issue to those in recovery. 

A worsened mental state could potentially lead a person to relapse as a means of coping with their mental distress. Additionally, while the lockdowns have largely been lifted, increased social isolation, anxieties for loved ones, and job uncertainties due to COVID-19 may also be factors in those suffering from the long-term effects of the virus. 

Coping With Long-COVID-19 Symptoms

If you are experiencing long-lasting effects of COVID-19 like those mentioned above, staying on the path to recovery may seem hopeless. However, there are things that you can do to manage your symptoms and remain sober. 

#1 Talk With Your Doctor

Whether you talk to your physician about your physical symptoms, your therapist about your mental or emotional symptoms, or both, seeking professional help could be key to staying healthy and sober. Professionals can help you manage your symptoms through either medication or new coping strategies, making day-to-day life a little easier. Anytime you feel that your symptoms are becoming too overwhelming or you need help staying sober, be sure to utilize your support system.

#2 Exercise

While regular exercise may seem impossible at times, studies have proven the profound impact that exercise can have on addiction recovery. Exercise is a particularly powerful tool because it improves your mental state as well as your physical well-being. Regardless of whether your long-COVID symptoms are physical or mental, exercise can help you manage them. Physical benefits of exercise range from strengthening bones and muscles to preventing various cancers to increasing lung capacity and heart strength. Mental benefits of exercise include reduced anxiety, improved mood, and fostering a generally healthier mental state. 

#3 Sleep

Sleep provides the body and mind time to rest and rejuvenate. While exercise is important for ensuring your mind and body don’t remain idle for too long, sleeping seven to nine hours every night is equally important in giving your body time to heal. Sleep has been positively linked to an improved mental state, a stronger immune system, a healthier heart, and more. While it may seem trivial or unimportant at times, sleep is more important than most people realize in maintaining a healthy mental and physical state.

While the long-term effects of COVID-19 are still being explored, the effects of long-COVID can be very difficult to manage. Fatigue, muscle pain, and mood swings are only a few of these effects that can be especially difficult to manage for those in recovery. While they may make recovery more difficult, they don’t make it impossible. Implementing strategies to help cope with these symptoms and regularly talking to professionals can help mitigate the impacts of long-COVID on the recovery process. At West Coast Recovery Centers, our professionals have the resources necessary to help you with any bump that may come on your road to recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling, call today at (760) 492-6509.

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