Joe Trolian

Joe Trolian, executive director of the Richland County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services

MANSFIELD -- When any type of disaster or momentous shift occurs, it can trigger a recovering addict to relapse.

"It's what we see happen in these situations," said Joe Trolian, executive director at Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. "Any time you have a disaster when people are in crisis mode, they will adapt to the ways they know how -- what they are familiar with."

The Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board is preparing for the damage done by the pandemic in Richland County following COVIC-19.

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"Alcohol sales are up 40 percent," he said. "We anticipate we are going to need our detox services and other support services at a much larger amount than we had been seeing recently."

Amanda Nichols, of Project One, an addiction support and advocacy group, said she has spoken with several clients who are afraid of relapsing.

"One (client) is worried because he can't go to the gym. That was his release," she said. "He is struggling to find something new because that was his community. Others are a couple women who don't have the best conditions at home.

"It's getting harder for people at home. People getting more depressed and having to be at the house."

She stressed the need for those struggling to find new hobbies during stay-at-home orders and to check in with their friends and support groups online.

"Just being able to connect with people. Even Facetiming or Zooming, getting to see people's face," Nichols said. "You may need to do this once a week or even more often."

Nichols added that life changes are hard for everyone.

"People who were smoking cigarettes and quit for 10 years, when they get stressed they may go back to smoking again," she said. "That familiar coping mechanism. Sometimes people lean on that."

Counties around Ohio saw a rise in drug overdoses after federal stimulus checks began roll out in early April, according to Valerie Rust, who created the Starfish Project with her husband to help addicts heal.

Rust and Trolian both said that was not evident in Richland County.

"What I've seen here is the isolation and anxiety has caused a rise, in general, issues in mental health of addicts," she said. "There are people who have been doing well who are struggling."

Rust said many in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous rely on the human connection of the group. 

"I've definitely seen people relapsing or being close to relapsing because of isolation," she said. "You're talking about groups who are used to having face-to-face conversations with people and counselors.

"They are used to having a very interactive community to work through issues."

Trolian said he would like people to reach out to at least five people a day.

"I have a neighbor I see every day. We have a nice shouting conversation, and I know he's OK," he said. "Just to support others. If you know of someone with an addiction or a way of coping that is less than positive, let them know you are thinking about them."