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Opioid Addiction During the Winter Months

by Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

As the cold days of winter draw near, this season presents a real danger to those struggling with opioid addiction. Why does opioid addiction tend to get worse in the cold winter months? Is there anything you can do to maintain your sobriety? Before the chills sets in, make sure you are forewarned and forearmed.

How Cold Weather Impacts Opioid Addiction

When the days are shorter and the weather is colder, there tends to be a dramatic spike in opioid overdoses. Winter is one of the hardest times to survive or hide an opioid addiction. While each person who struggles with addiction has a unique set of circumstances, here are some of the factors that make the cold weather of winter difficult for people with an opioid use disorder:

  • Lack of sunshine: When the sun isn’t shining, it’s very common to experience a depressed mood, lethargy and anxiety. Those struggling with addiction may be tempted to use opioids to lift their spirits and relieve their negative mental state.
  • Inability to leave home: When sitting through a long, stormy winter, it’s hard to find healthy activities. Boredom is a huge risk factor for those with opioid addiction.
  • Pain: Some people who struggle with opioid addiction use drugs to numb chronic pain. Winter can intensify painful symptoms, which may cause people to relapse.
  • Forced interactions with others: Whether it’s bunkering down with family or countless holiday gatherings, winter forces interactions with family, friends and acquaintances. The stress of these social gatherings can push those in recovery over the edge. Those continuing to hide an active addiction may also use more drugs so that they don’t go into active withdrawal.

Ways to Protect Your Sobriety in the Winter

If the cold weather is threatening your sobriety, it’s time to take action. Here are some steps to help safeguard your recovery from opioid addiction during the winter.

Prepare an Arsenal of Mood-Lifting Activities

When the winter blues kick in, you may be tempted to seek out substances that used to help you feel better. Now that you’re sober, you need some go-to activities that you know will improve your mood and keep those cravings at bay. Some common winter activities include:

  • Binge-watching a comedy series.
  • Having a game night with your friends or family.
  • Snuggling under a warm blanket with a mug of hot cider or cocoa.
  • Taking a hot bath and listening to relaxing music.

Engage in Healthy Habits

Many people slip into unhealthy patterns during the winter, such as inactivity, eating junk food and sleeping longer than usual. Choose to stay on track with your healthy habits by:

  • Eating three nutritious meals and plenty of healthy snacks.
  • Creating an indoor exercise routine if the weather keeps you in.
  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques whenever you feel stressed.

Reach Out to Friends and Loved Ones

Don’t allow the isolation of winter to put your sobriety at risk. If you find yourself thinking about using, reach out to your support network. Tell them about your struggles, or engage in some lighthearted conversation to boost your mood.

Get Help Maintaining Your Recovery This Winter

Whether you’re in recovery or still grappling with opioid addiction, you don’t have to face this winter alone. Health Care Resource Centers offers medication-assisted treatment (MAT) along with compassionate counseling to support and encourage your recovery journey through every season of life. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.

Medically Reviewed By:

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

The Clinical Team at Health Care Resource Centers is our team of physicians and medical directors within the organization. HCRC is a CARF accredited organization and has been providing addiction treatment services for over 32 years in the New England area.

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