Addiction treatment in a pandemic

“Addiction prevalence is not going to slow down during this period,
with recent research suggesting that the problem will only get worse during the lockdown.”
– Doctor Lapa, Rehab Clinics

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, affecting all of us in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and the world. Now more than ever, people are feeling the strain and stress of underlying health issues including addiction to alcohol and other drugs. People experiencing addiction are in a particularly vulnerable position and addiction treatment services are still open and available, with safety measures in place to manage the risk of infection. It is still possible to get help.

Treatment services including detox, rehab and outpatient counselling programs are considered essential services. Addiction treatment providers are mandated and regulated to ensure services are delivered with the utmost care and consideration of the client and staff safety. This means that there are new processes in place and, that processes are constantly changing to stay up to date with the latest advice from state and federal government.

If you are considering seeking addiction treatment during COVID-19 and are feeling concerned,
please call us on 03 9533 7888 and ask all the questions you need to feel safe.


Can I still go to rehab during COVID-19?

Yes! People seeking support and treatment for drug and alcohol addiction can access detox, rehab and counselling services during COVID-19. Regardless of restrictions, travel is permitted to enable access to essential health services which include addiction treatment services. This means that if the treatment facility of your choice is in a regional area, or somewhere outside of the allowable travel zone at any given time, COVID-19 restrictions will not be a barrier to getting help.

Travelling interstate for rehab may be possible although, depending on what the current restrictions are, you may need to apply for a special exemption. If you are accessing addiction treatment services during a time when travel restrictions are in place, it’s recommended that you keep a print-out of your admission confirmation email with you while you are travelling to the treatment facility. This should give you a little more peace of mind and will be helpful if you are stopped by authorities whilst in transit.

Arrow Health’s services remain available throughout COVID-19, so that vulnerable people who require rehab can still access treatment.

What safety precautions are in place?

When it comes to infection control, addiction treatment providers are guided by:

  • State government
  • Federal government
  • World Health Organisation

To ensure addiction treatment centres can continue to provide necessary supports and services, several new policies, procedures and protocols have been introduced in line with government recommendations. These measures have been implemented to ensure the health and wellbeing of clients, families, staff, and the broader community and to vastly minimise the risk of viral transmission.

Specific COVID-19 infection control measures differ between treatment providers as well as between residential and non-residential programs. Many non-residential services such as counselling and group therapy are now taking place online – with great effect. To find out more about infection control measures and safety precautions, it’s best to contact the treatment facility directly.


Most residential (inpatient) addiction treatment services now require clients to present a negative COVID-19 test prior to admission. The tests are available at mobile and drive-through testing sites at no cost, as well as at select clinics where bulk billing is also an option.

Do I need to self-isolate before admission to a residential (inpatient) rehab?

This will depend on where you are located and the specific processes that your chosen rehab has put in place. If you are seeking addiction treatment during COVID-19, we recommend you call the addiction treatment facility to find out all the information you need so you can prepare for your admission the best you can.

How can I keep myself safe while I am waiting to go to rehab?

Here’s a list that you can follow to keep yourself safe in the period of time before admission:

  • Limit contact with people
  • Practise hand hygiene by washing your hands regularly for 20-30 seconds with hand sanitiser or soap
  • Practise physical distancing – 1.5m from people at all times
  • Wear a face covering when you are in a situation where you are unable to socially distance.

Remember to reach out to friends and family for support as you prepare to enter rehab. Many rehabs will provide a phone number you can call to check in with someone as you need in the lead up to your admission.

Will I need to wear a face mask to access services?

This will depend on current government regulations. If you are unsure, ask the treatment facility. When you access online programs from your own home, there is no need for any facial covering.

How do I find help for addiction during COVID-19?

A quick Google search will show you there are many different providers and treatment options available – including detox, rehab, inpatient and outpatient programs. Not all providers are equal though – the quality of programs and expertise of staff may differ greatly.  Do your research! Once you have looked at a few websites, pick up the phone. Ask all the questions you need, make sure that you feel heard and understood and use the conversation to get a feel for the place.

The importance of getting help

Times of change and uncertainty can be both stressful and frightening, and even more so if you are already dealing with addiction. Many treatment options are available during COVID-19.

Change is possible – even during a pandemic! 

It may never feel like the right time to get help so now is as good a time as any!

If you have any questions, please do get in touch: 03 9533 7888.

We know how important it is to ensure that people experiencing addiction can access the help they need. The whole drug and alcohol sector are working closely with government to make sure these vital services remain accessible, available and safe for everyone.