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Opioid Addiction During the Winter Months

by General Marketing

The Northeast is known for its seasonal climate. While many love the changing seasons, winter can be a challenging time for those recovering from opioid use. Opioid overdoses tend to spike when the weather is colder and the days are shorter.

With understanding, planning and treatment, you can be better prepared to maintain your recovery journey through New England winters.

How Cold Weather Affects Mood

Weather can have a substantial effect on anyone’s mood, though it has a larger impact on some individuals. For some, colder weather brings the joy of the holidays with it. For others, winter can encourage feelings of isolation or loneliness. In most cases, winter can make people feel:

  • Stressed: The holiday season is a joyful time for many people, but those special occasions can also be overwhelming. These feelings can build up over gathering with friends and family and limited ways to exert excess energy outside.
  • Sluggish: The cold makes many people want to bundle up in a blanket by the fire. This coziness can reduce your ability to perform necessary tasks, with low temperatures potentially stiffening your muscles and affecting your sleep patterns.
  • Depressed: Most people spend less time outside when the temperature falls. No sunshine or fresh air for prolonged periods can cause feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • Irritable: Irritability goes hand-in-hand with depression because the brain uses more serotonin to regulate your mood. This effort takes more serotonin from the brain than managing your emotions during warmer months.
  • Forgetful: As the days get shorter, so can our concentration. Less exposure to natural light changes how your brain functions, making some people feel easily distracted and more forgetful.
  • Withdrawn: Winter temperatures prevent many people from holding events or gathering with friends outside or at all. A little alone time is necessary, but prolonged periods without socializing can make you feel more isolated than you do with a packed social calendar of summer activities.

How Mood and Cold Weather Can Impact Opioid Addiction

When the days are shorter and the weather is colder, there tends to be a dramatic spike in opioid overdoses. From low temperatures and less sunlight to holidays and inclement weather, winter can make it more challenging to manage your recovery. While each person recovering from 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:

Limited Travel

Winter storm conditions can make travel dangerous, if not impossible. Being stuck at home might make it difficult to find healthy activities to avoid boredom and isolation, which are major risk factors for people trying to maintain recovery.

Forced Interactions

Whether you’re hunkering down with your family during a storm or attending countless holiday parties, winter often forces interactions with family, friends and acquaintances. These gatherings may bring up negative emotions and increase stress.

Lack of Sunlight

Shorter days mean less sunlight, which can significantly impact people’s mental health and lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Those with opioid use disorder may be tempted to use substances to manage their seasonal depression.

Ways to Protect Your Sobriety in the Winter

If the cold weather in the Northeast impacts your well-being, it’s time to take action. Here are some steps to help safeguard your recovery from opioid addiction during the winter.

Engage in Healthy Habits

Some people slip into unhealthy habits during the winter, such as inactivity and poor eating, which can lead to relapse. You can keep your health on track by:

  • Creating an indoor exercise routine for when you can’t go outside.
  • Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
  • Eating three nutritious meals and healthy snacks throughout the day.
  • Practicing meditation or other relaxation techniques.

Create a Go-to List of Fun Activities

When you feel depressed, seeking out substances that once made you feel better can be tempting. Engage in activities you know will improve your mood and keep cravings at bay to protect your recovery. Common winter activities you can enjoy include:

  • Taking a hot bath.
  • Having a game night with friends or family.
  • Watching your favorite movies or TV shows.
  • Finding seasonal activities you can look forward to each year.

Reach Out to Your Loved Ones

Winter can be an isolating time for many people, and you are not alone. If you need a helping hand on your recovery journey, reach out to your support system to share your struggles or enjoy a light-hearted, mood-lifting conversation.

Our HCRC Locations

The Northeast is a beautiful place to live, but winters can rush in harshly and quickly. If you find the cold weather threatening your recovery this season, reach out to Health Care Resource Centers. We have several locations in multiple states in the New England area and are here to support you every step of the way. Find the location closest to you in:

  • Maine: Lewiston and Portland
  • New Hampshire: Hudson, Newington and Somersworth
  • Massachusetts: Attleboro, Boston, Chelsea, Chicopee, Greenfield, Jamaica Plain, New Bedford, Northampton, Peabody, Westfield and Woburn
  • Connecticut: Hartford

Get Help Maintaining Your Recovery This Winter

Whether you’re in recovery or resumed or experienced a recurrence of substance use, Health Care Resource Centers can help you get through New England winters. We offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and personalized, compassionate care to help you address the challenges you face. We understand that recovery is a journey and that some seasons are more difficult than others. Our team will help you receive the support you need. We can provide options like counseling and methadone treatment to help you make progress this winter.

Reach out to us today to learn more.

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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