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national relapse trigger

The COVID-19 Pandemic: A National Relapse Trigger

Over 20 million Americans have a substance use disorder (SUD). A July 2020 study showed a 32 percent increase in non-prescription fentanyl use. This took place between March and May. This report also showed a 20 percent increase in methamphetamine and a 10 percent increase in cocaine use. During this same time, the incidence of drug overdoses rose by 18 percent.

Another study surveyed 1,079 SUD family members. They found that 20 percent reported an increase in their relative’s SUD during COVID-19.

The pandemic is serving as a relapse trigger for those with SUD. The need for physical distancing has reduced access to support services. Keep reading to learn about the connections between the COVID-19 pandemic and addiction relapses.

What Is a Relapse Trigger?

Many factors can cause an individual to return to addictive behavior. The person may use their addiction to avoid or cope with stress. Examples of stressors include problems with finances, relationships, isolation, and work.

Any significant life change or increased stress can serve as a relapse trigger. Relapse symptoms include increased cravings, hunger, anxiety, exhaustion, or depression.

Why Is COVID-19 a Relapse Trigger?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the nation has experienced physical lockdowns. There’s been an increase in unemployment and ongoing financial and health uncertainty.

For those fortunate enough to continue working, ongoing job security may also cause anxiety. Many employees now work from home, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Individuals with children must balance childcare and meeting work expectations.

Overall, the nation’s stress level has increased. To compound this problem, access to healthcare and support services is now limited. This makes it harder to get prescriptions filled and contact healthcare providers.

Virtual appointments and other avenues have been developed to ease this problem. Interruption in face-to-face and group interaction can prove devastating for those with SUD due to the support they provide.

A March 26, 2020 article in the New York Times paints a picture of the pandemic’s impact on those with SUD. The Cleveland outpatient clinic held its daily 3-hour morning therapy on Friday, March 13th. The group included alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and heroin addicts.

The session began with low lights and meditation. There was plenty of coffee and snacks for everyone. Some people were recently out of marriages, jobs, and jail. One individual was attending for the first time.

They shared heartfelt feelings and secrets. Members felt support for their sobriety.

At the end of the meeting, they joined arms and recited the Serenity Prayer. They left with wishes for safety and a return on Monday.

That Monday never came. People were left hanging without their safety net. Their risk of relapse increased that day.

The COVID-19 Impact on Teenagers

As our nation tries to cope with prolonged fear and stress, our teenagers are suffering as well. Too many adolescents, during normal times, turn to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco to cope with life. Puberty presents many changes and challenges including significant peer pressure.

Recent studies have shown that 60 percent of teens experiment with alcohol by twelfth grade. About 50 percent try marijuana and 20 percent use non-prescribed medications. Between ninth and twelfth grade, 40 percent of teenagers try tobacco.

With the onset of the pandemic, most schools closed and activities were canceled. For many teenagers, this left them without structure and support. Changes in normal routines increased already strained family relationships.

Adolescents lack the maturity to cope with major stressful events. They need the support of parents, school personnel, religious leaders, and community members. Without this network, many teens turn to addictive and risky behavior as a coping strategy.

COVID-19 Mental Health Challenges

Separation from a community increases mental health challenges for many people.

One 48-year-old man with SUD stated, “Being alone five days in a row can get to you, can make you anxious and depressed.” Add the fear of catching a deadly disease by breathing contaminated air or touching something with the virus. The physical distancing required to fight COVID-19 is removing support and increasing isolation.

The pandemic has created a source of trauma for many people. Trauma is often a significant relapse trigger for addiction. Trauma increases stress levels and narrows a person’s ability to focus on problem-solving. This leads to poor coping mechanisms such as substance abuse.

Actions Taken to Decrease COVID as a Relapse Trigger

Many organizations are enacting changes to previous protocols and recommendations. Experts have responded to the pandemic’s emotional impact by developing new problem-solving approaches.

Two organizations are actively working to make changes. These include:

  • The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

They’re making it easier for those with opioid use disorders to get buprenorphine and methadone. The DEA is now helping patients get medications to control pain.

The American Medical Association has urged state legislators and governors to become involved. They’ve asked them to adopt the SAMHSA and DEA guidelines as written for the duration of the pandemic. This means more flexible evaluation and prescribing criteria and the use of telemedicine.

These guidelines make several requests. Examples include removing prior authorization, step therapy, and other obstacles to medication access.

They encourage enforcing parity laws for meaningful substance use and mental health disorders. States are also asked to support programs that provide sterile needles and syringes.

Are You Looking for Help with Addiction?

If you have a history of substance use disorder, watch for signs of relapse. The COVID-19 pandemic has become a relapse trigger for addiction. Cenikor offers a place to strengthen your foundation for improving your health and lifestyle.

Our program focuses on alcohol and drug addiction as well as mental and behavioral health concerns. Cenikor provides quality treatment for adolescents and adults.

Don’t wait. Contact us today to speak with one of our compassionate admission advisors. They will answer your questions and help you move toward a new life.

Teen Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Is on the Rise for Teens Because of COVID-19

Since March, everything in our world has been turned upside down. Sporting venues have shut down, restaurants may offer only delivery services, and work and school has moved into the home. And over the last seven months, you may have noticed your teenager has been acting a little differently.

Teenagers are facing greater mental health challenges than ever before, and many may turn to substance abuse to cope. Read on to learn more about how substance abuse has changed among teenagers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Substance Abuse Risks Among Teens

Before we dive into the additional problems the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, let’s talk some about substance abuse among teenagers in normal circumstances. Puberty can be a challenging, stressful time, and many teenagers turn to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco as a coping mechanism. There may also be pressure from friends to try drugs as a way to rebel and fit in.

By twelfth grade, about 60 percent of teenagers have tried alcohol, and about 20 percent have used medications without a prescription. About half of high schoolers say that they have tried marijuana. And roughly 40 percent of teenagers between ninth and twelfth grade have tried cigarettes.

Mental Health Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a variety of mental health challenges for teenagers and adults alike. For one thing, the constant stress of living in a disease-ridden world has left many of us at higher risk for anxiety and depression. Even routine tasks like going to the grocery store or attending school may now carry an added layer of stress.

Teenagers have also become more isolated than ever before in the face of the pandemic. With schools shut down or using virtual learning, adolescents can no longer see their friends as often as they used to. They may also not be able to participate in their usual extracurricular activities thanks to COVID shutdowns.

Connection Between Trauma and Substance Abuse 

In addition to the continual strain the COVID-19 pandemic is causing, it has also been a source of trauma for today’s teenagers. Most of us grew up believing certain things in life were constant – school, sports, graduation ceremonies, and more. But today’s teenagers have had all that taken away from them as we’ve had to learn to live with the consequences of the pandemic.

This trauma is part of what causes teenagers to turn to substance abuse. Most teenagers haven’t yet learned healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress, and substance abuse may seem like a good option to relieve that stress. Once the teen associates that substance abuse with stress relief, they may have a hard time finding other ways to deal with the challenges they face.

Recent Teen Substance Abuse by the Numbers

So how has teenage substance abuse changed since the start of the pandemic in March? According to one study, alcohol use among teenagers has risen some during the pandemic.

Before COVID, this study estimates 28.6 percent of teens used alcohol. During the pandemic, that number rose to 30.4 percent.

The frequency with which teenagers use marijuana and alcohol has also risen during the pandemic. Before COVID, teens reported using alcohol only about twice a month. That number rose to almost three times a month during the pandemic.

Cannabis use days also increased slightly from an average of 3.28 days per three weeks before the pandemic to an average of 3.76 days per three weeks during the pandemic.

Common Drugs 

There are a few drugs teenagers may use more commonly than others. Most teenagers aren’t using heroin, cocaine, or other “serious” drugs during their high school years. Instead, you’re much more likely to see drugs that seem like “not such a big deal” showing up among teenage crowds.

Alcohol is by far the most common drug of choice for teenagers, though marijuana isn’t far behind. Many teenagers have tried cigarettes, and vaping has become frighteningly trendy in recent years. Teenagers who feel more pressure to perform well academically may also use drugs like Adderall to get their school work done.

Warning Signs to Watch For

If you are the parent or loved one of a teenager, there are a few warning signs that can let you know they may be using drugs. Their mood may change even more than normal, and they may be unable to focus, have a sudden loss of inhibitions, or lose motivation.

Keep in mind that some of this is to be expected as a normal part of puberty. You want to keep an eye on drastic shifts.

Your teenager may also begin to act differently in school, or they may become unusually clumsy. They may have burn marks on their fingers or lips, their face may often be flushed, and you may notice them wearing long sleeves even in hot weather. They may have sores around their mouth, they might get lots of unexplained nosebleeds, or they may seem sick much more often.

How to Help an Addicted Teen

If you think your teenager may have a substance abuse problem, the first and most important thing you can do is let them know you are there for them. Responding with anger will only make them think they can’t turn to you for help. Instead, focus on showing compassion and letting them know that, no matter what problem they bring to you, they’ll be in a safe, trusted space and that you’ll get them the help they need.

If you find out your teenager is using drugs, talk to their school counselor about resources to help. They may be able to direct you to a therapist who specializes in working with teenagers and substance abuse. Keep lines of communication open between you and your teenager, and continue to show them compassion and love throughout this process.

Care for Your Teen’s Mental Health 

Substance abuse is a dangerous problem among teenagers, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it worse. Teenagers are facing worse mental health problems than ever before, and many may turn to drug use to cope. If you suspect your teenager may be using drugs, give them a safe space to talk to you about it, and make sure they get the help they need with compassion and care.

If you’d like to find the right help for your teenager, reach out to us at Cenikor. We are a place for change that can help you and your teen find better health and better lives. Contact us today to learn more about our addiction recovery programs.

opioid addiction

Opioid Overdose and the Pandemic: The Shocking Link Between the Two

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid crisis was often in the headlines. While it seems to have lost the spotlight, opioid overdoses remain a huge problem.

How many deaths due to opioid overdose would you guess happened last year? The answer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is about 72,000. This is a 5% increase in America since 2018.

Opioid overdose deaths are higher than from car accidents, guns, or AIDS. The CDC also estimates that opioid abuse costs the U.S. about $78.5 billion each year. This includes healthcare and treatment costs for addiction, lost productivity, and criminal justice.

Keep reading to learn more about opioid addiction, overdose, and the pandemic’s impact.

What Is an Opioid?

Opioids describe a class of drugs that occurs naturally in the opium poppy plant. Many prescription painkillers contain opioids. The street drug, heroin, is also an opioid.

Prescription opioids help relieve pain. They do this by blocking pain signals sent from the body to the brain.

Along with decreasing pain, opioids also make some people feel relaxed or even “high”. This high or happy feeling may lead a person to use more than needed. This may result in an addiction.

Other side effects include constipation, nausea, and drowsiness. Some people even experience slower breathing and confusion.

Some common prescription names for opioids include OxyContin®, codeine, morphine, and hydrocodone. Fentanyl is another opioid that’s about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s often prescribed for cancer patients.

All these drugs may be found in the illegal market as well. Street heroin and fentanyl often contain other dangerous products along with the opioids.

How Is Opioid Abuse Defined?

Opioid abuse means that an individual uses more of the medication than prescribed. It can also refer to situations when someone uses opioids that were prescribed for someone else.

The brain chemistry changes and develops a tolerance for the drug. Tolerance means that the individual needs to use more drugs over to get the same effect. If they stop the drug suddenly, they will have physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Anyone who takes opioids for a prolonged time becomes dependent on the drug. This isn’t the same thing as an addiction.

Addiction describes a strong, compulsive urge to use opioids. This is no longer related to a medical need for the drug. Opioids have a high risk of becoming addictive even if it was originally prescribed.

Those with an opioid addiction may place getting the drug over food or other life necessities. Addiction interferes with relationships, work performance, and health. No one knows why some people are more prone to become addicted than others.

What Is an Opioid Overdose?

Over 1,000 Americans receive emergency department treatment every day for opioid overdoses. Even more concerning, someone dies from an opioid overdose about every 11 minutes.

Often, these overdoses occur by accident at home. A person may be trying to stop their pain and take too much of the medicine.

An overdose causes the brain receptors to block the pain, slow the breathing, and calm the body. When there is too much opioid drug in the blood, it can decrease breathing to a dangerous or deadly level. The most common cause of death is the cessation of breathing.

Signs and symptoms that an opioid overdose emergency is happening includes:

  • Extreme sleepiness or not able to wake up
  • Very slow or no breathing
  • Slowing of the heartbeat and low blood pressure
  • Cold and clammy feeling skin
  • The pupil (the center black part of the eye) looks very tiny
  • A blue color to the lips and nails

If the person doesn’t receive immediate medical treatment, they can die. Remember, this can result from legal prescriptions or illegal opioid use.

How Has COVID-19 Affected the Opioid Overdose Crisis?

During COVID-19, a large part of the U.S. has experienced quarantine. Many workers have also begun working from home or lost their jobs. Many businesses and healthcare facilities have limited access.

In general, the nation’s stress level has risen dramatically. Isolation and stress are two strong contributors to addiction. Many individuals may have trouble contacting their doctor or getting prescriptions refilled.

The majority of states are reporting increases in opioid-related deaths since the pandemic. They’ve also seen more problems with mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse.

Increased use of alcohol and drugs only adds to family and community problems. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported an increase in substance abuse after 9/11.

Our nation is facing an even more wide-spread and longer state of fear and stress today. More individuals have directly felt the impact of this crisis than at any other time in their life.

New Guidelines

In response, the American Medical Association (AMA) has taken action to address this issue. They are asking governors and state legislators to follow the new guidance. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released new rules.

The DEA and SAMHSA guidance encourage flexibility in evaluating and prescribing opioids. They also support the use of telemedicine.

They recommend reducing barriers for those who need medication. These barriers may include insurance prior authorization and step therapy. They support meaningful treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Other changes involve making sterile needles and syringes available to decrease infection risk. The AMA also encourages reduced restrictions on opioid dosing, quantity, and refills.

Do You Need Help With Addiction?

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, it’s time to get help. This article gave an overview of opioid abuse and opioid overdose. Experts know that pandemic-related stress is making the struggle with addiction harder.

Cenikor provides quality substance abuse and behavioral health services. We value health, wellness, faith, work, recovery, respect, education, and accountability. Our goal is to rebuild relationships and families through affordable services.

Contact us today if you or a family member needs help with an addiction.


Help is Available During the COVID-19 Crisis

CEO Bill Bailey provided an interview for CW39 Houston regarding substance use disorders and recovery. Read the story below:

During these uncertain times it can be especially difficult for those recovering from or battling an addiction. That’s why the Cenikor Foundation is remaining open to serve during the pandemic.

They’ve actually seen an increase in people seeking help, since the pandemic. “The first two weeks we saw about a 10 to 20% increase of people calling in for assistance,” said Bill Bailey, President & CEO of Cenikor Foundation. “It’s leveled off but we’re still seeing 28 to 30 new admissions a day.”

Cenikor Foundation’s short term residential program provides a community-based treatment for addiction. These services have been designated essential services during this pandemic. This model has been successful for Cenikor for over 50 years. In recent months, operations have required updates to protect the health and well-being of clients, staff and visitors.

Cenikor Foundation is a non-profit and will work with you whether you have insurance or not.

As far as signs of you or someone you know battling an addiction during quarantine? Bailey said to look to see if the person is drinking throughout the entire day. “Or that they’re drinking excessively or started using other substance. And if you find them incoherent or unable to speak with you. Their thought process may become cloudy,” Bailey adds.

And for anyone struggling out there Bailey has a message, “There is hope, there’s a safe place to seek treatment today. Don’t wait until the virus has passed, now’s the time to come in. We’re here for you.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, please call 1-888-CENIKOR (236-4567).

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Bill Bailey - Cenikor Foundation CEO

Substance Use Disorder Lost In The Coronavirus Pandemic

As the country learns to fight the novel coronavirus, the opioid epidemic has slipped back to the shadows. Just a few months ago, that epidemic was taking almost 200 lives per day, 67,367 in 2018, and had become a household topic. Taskforces, committees, legislators, communities and treatment providers were standing together to help make resources available for those that found themselves suffering from addiction issues.

We are facing a time of unprecedented stress and unknowns. Unemployment is rapidly rising. Social distancing brings the psychological fallout of isolation. It is vitally important, now more than ever, to the health of our nation to ensure that treatment is available and accessible. Times of high stress bring with them an increase in alcohol and drug use and abuse which compounds the issues that our families and communities are already facing. According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse report following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, “stressful times are particularly difficult for those who are more vulnerable to substance abuse and stress. Stress is one of the most powerful triggers for relapse in addicted individuals, even after long periods of abstinence”.

As we all know, hospitals are dealing daily with the pandemic and we are so grateful for the doctors and nurses showing up every day. A lesser known fact is that as stay at home orders have been issued across Texas, substance use disorder services have been designated essential services. This further emphasizes the necessity for those struggling with addictions to be able to receive the services they so desperately need. At Cenikor Foundation, we have been serving a community in the crisis of addiction for over 53 years and continue to meet the challenge through this crisis. True to the trends we have seen in previous crises, we continue to see a steady stream of calls for help. Our staff have risen to the challenge to provide safe environments for those seeking services and continue to provide daily the care that is necessary to save the lives of those suffering from addiction. We are honored and privileged to continue being a place for change during, through, and after this national crisis. Whether you or someone you love is searching for detoxification, shorter-term residential or outpatient services, and whether you are insured, uninsured or under-insured, there is someone out there who can help. For every unique situation, there is a door to successful recovery, there are resources available and it is the right time to ask for help.

Bill Bailey has served as President and CEO of Cenikor Foundation since 2004. Through Bill Bailey’s 16 years of leadership, Cenikor has provided strategic guidance, igniting a successful cycle of growth in geographic scope and treatment services within Cenikor’s full continuum of care. Bill’s commitment to Cenikor and the overall behavioral health community is one of long-term success, focused on Cenikor raising public awareness in the areas of treatment, prevention and education, and continuing a progressive movement on a national level.

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New Youth Recovery Community Center

Cenikor San Marcos hosted a ribbon-cutting on Thursday, January 30, to commemorate the grand opening of our new youth recovery community center! A proclamation was made by special guest Senator Judith Zaffirini, PhD.

We are excited about this advancement in our Youth Recovery Community program. This community center will serve as a safe and sober space for youth and young adults to explore friendship, fun and education.

You can watch our news segment here or read the newspaper article here.

To learn more about our YRC program, visit this page or email


New Access Center Opens in Killeen

Cenikor Foundation opened a new call center as part of its focus on making recovery more widely available. The Access Center will provide information and support admissions to those seeking treatment for substance use disorder.

Vice President Amy Granberry spoke with KXXV about this expansion. “The absolute first step is calling and asking for help,” Amy states. “Then we do our best to help connect people to services they need.”

Cenikor Foundation currently offers intensive outpatient services at its facility in Killeen, Texas. This call center brings more jobs to Killeen and builds a local workforce to support its mission to provide a foundation for better health and better lives.

Watch the full news story here


For addicts, it’s never too late

The Advocate responds to a newspaper editorial from Cenikor President and CEO, Bill Bailey. James Victorian, proud Cenikor graduate shares his own story of overcoming addiction.

“Today, I’m strong in areas where I was weak, and I’ve finally learned to put others before myself. I graduated from the program last June — at 56 years of age — and I’m looking forward to living the new life I’ve been blessed with to its fullest. I hope that anyone dealing with a substance use issue knows that it’s never too late to start over.”

Read the full letter here: Original Source


Grand Opening of Cenikor Amarillo

Cenikor Foundation introduces full continuum of care to Amarillo area


Cenikor Foundation hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, November 12 for their grand opening of its treatment facility at 1001 Wallace Blvd, Amarillo, TX 79106 (formerly ARAD – Amarillo Recovery from Alcohol and Drugs). State Rep. Four Price was the featured speaker at the event.

“They are continuing some really good fundamental work that ARAD started here in our community,” said Four Price, State Rep. House District 87. “I think it’s great they’re here. They’re a great resource for us and help attract people from other regions as well.”

The new long-term residential program focuses on a holistic approach that addresses not only substance use disorders, but also focuses on helping clients develop the skills necessary to prepare them for a successful life. The facility also offers a short-term residential program and outpatient services.

The full news stories can be reviewed at the following links:

News Channel 10 KFDA


Amarillo Globe

KGNC Radio


Cenikor Tyler Names Community Partner of the Year

Students in Tyler Junior College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program were recognized for projects that have improved the lives of their clients at events in Tyler and Austin on Friday.

The Cenikor Foundation named the TJC OTA program as its Community Partner of the Year, for its work with clients who have substance abuse and mental health issues.

In the spring, second-year OTA students completed 10 weeks of field work at Cenikor, an East Texas nonprofit substance abuse and behavioral health organization offering long- and short-term inpatient services.

“As third-semester students, part of their training includes working in the mental health field,” said Jennifer Garner, TJC OTA professor and academic field work coordinator. “Our students work alongside the counselors and help to provide activities and education about daily living as far as coping skills.”

As the Cenikor students were being honored in Tyler on Friday, a group of second-year OTA students from TJC were at the Texas Occupational Therapy Association conference in Austin, presenting on a 16-week project they created to make it easier for children with autism to go to the dentist.

“To start, we looked at what a dental visit looks like for a child with autism, and we found out that they usually involved that child either being restrained or sedated,” said TJC OTA student Emily Calafat, of Grand Prairie.

They also learned that children with autism are less likely to receive dental treatment at all, since the experience is not only traumatic for the patients but also for their parents as well as the health care professionals who treat them.

Since most of the children’s difficulties stem from sensory issues such as loud noises, bright lighting and even smells, the TJC students set out on identifying and reducing the stress factors.

“Along with the sensory issues, children with autism are also very specific and need to know what to expect before being thrown into a new situation,” said TJC OTA student Victoria Swinney, of Tyler. “So, we collaborated with the dental hygiene students in the TJC dental clinic and created a short storybook for them with actual pictures of our dental clinic, the student hygienists who would treat them and the exact dental instruments they would use.”

The OTA students also worked with TJC mass communications students to create a detailed walk-through video that the children could watch ahead of time.

The OTA students also worked with TJC mass communications students to create a detailed walk-through video that the children could watch ahead of time.

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