Local News

Clients seeking help with alcoholism surge during pandemic

Posted July 15, 2020 6:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 15, 2020 7:00 a.m. EDT

— An alarming surge in alcohol dependency in the state follows months of social distancing, closed businesses and lost jobs.

Southlight Healthcare, with eight treatment centers in the Triangle area, reports a 20% rise in the number of people seeking help over the last several months.

Jennifer Whitfield, SouthLight’s director for adult community services, says their programs help clients with all sorts of substance abuse issues. Alcoholism is among the most common and for obvious reasons. "It’s legal. The stores are accessible. They’re not closed," said Whitfield.

Whitfield says a sense of shame is too often a barrier for people in seeking help. "Having a problem with alcohol is not something to be ashamed of. I’m personally in recovery, 15 years. We have a lot of staff who are," said Whitfield.

She says the pandemic has increased economic uncertainty along with feelings of isolation. She says many turn to alcohol as a remedy for their worries.

Whitfield says it’s a false remedy. "Alcohol is thought to be helpful in reducing anxiety. It actually can increase it," she said.

Whitfield says help overcoming alcohol dependency is available. However, COVID-19 has forced treatment centers to adapt their services. "With the pandemic, we provide a lot of services virtually," said Whitfield, in contrast to traditional in-person sessions.

Now, Whitfield says, people can seek support online. She says not everyone who needs help has internet access through a computer. However, SouthLight offers tele-health stations at several sites, including their Garner Road facility in Raleigh.

The first step to recovery, Whitfield says, is realizing you’re not alone. "It can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime and there’s help out there, and there’s no shame in seeking that help."

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