A Global Pandemic and Substance Use Disorder: Healthcare Professionals' Viewpoints on the Merging of Two Crises. Academic Article uri icon


  • COVID-19 has resulted in extraordinary adversities. Mandates such as distancing and variations to treatment services were implemented to slow transmission of the virus, but created new challenges for persons with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). To better understand this phenomenon, we surveyed healthcare professionals on how they believe COVID-19 has impacted persons with SUD and what needs to occur to effectively treat this vulnerable population. Methods: Attending physicians, residents, nurses, medical and nursing students, and other healthcare professionals were asked to respond to three open-ended questions related to the impact of COVID-19 on persons with SUD. Two independent coders reviewed the comments utilizing constant comparative analysis to develop themes. Results: Common themes of concern were found from the respective participants (n=205) including: lack of access to treatment, feelings of isolation, negative impacts on mental health, and the possibility of relapse. Healthcare strategies to effectively treat and help persons with SUD included increasing access to treatment including telehealth, development of peer support groups, availability of mental health resources, development of enhanced communication channels between providers and patients, and systematic changes. Conclusion: During the COVID-19 pandemic, overdose deaths have dramatically increased. As the short-term and long-term effects of the pandemic become more apparent, swift and comprehensive responses and policies must be enacted. This study provides insight from healthcare providers on the effects of the pandemic for persons with SUD. Many preexisting issues remain unresolved (e.g. stigma and healthcare disparities), and now the pandemic has presented new obstacles as noted by the providers. The findings from this study provide implications for important discussion regarding the development of strategies for substance use treatment and harm reduction.

published proceedings

  • Subst Use Misuse

altmetric score

  • 4

author list (cited authors)

  • Shreffler, J., Shreffler, M., Murfree, J. R., & Huecker, M.

citation count

  • 3

publication date

  • August 2021