TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Stimulus checks sent to millions of Americans are supposed to help provide a life line during difficult times in the middle of a pandemic. Some addiction experts say the money may be fueling substance use disorders for some.
“They’ve received $1,400 and now they can go buy their drug of choice,” said Alex Fernandez, the director of addiction services at CODAC.
CODAC is a behavioral health group in Tucson. Fernandez said drug treatment agencies across the country have seen stimulus money funding dangerous addictions.
“What seemed to be a direct, correlation between the stimulus payments that were going out and the overdoses,” she said.
She said the correlation became clearer when checks rolled out. Some people relapsed or would stop showing up for treatment.
“Engagement specialists, recovery coaches, we start reaching out to these people even if that means going to their homes,” she said. “It’s a very difficult time right now.”
El Rio Medical Director of Specialty Behavioral Health Christina Arredondo said the isolation and uncertainty of the pandemic continues to impact those with substance use disorders.
“Have lost jobs, have lost insurance, and lack of insurance you can lose medical care. School closures, divorce, domestic violence. Everything has increased,” she said.
She said the country’s overdose numbers have increased as well.
“The monthly overdose numbers were never over a certain number. Like never over 6,300 and we had some months over 9,000,” Arredondo said.
Addiction specialists want those who feel isolated know they’re not alone and help is available.
“They say, I just felt hopeless. I didn’t feel like there was anybody there and I just want to let people know , there are so many agencies out there. We are there for you,” Fernandez said.