For the more than 20 million Americans who battle substance abuse disorder (SUD), the pandemic has been a tornado, shattering sources of help and hope from their path. Since March, alcohol sales have risen over 25 percent. The use of illegal fentanyl, meth, and cocaine has escalated. And health systems across the country have reported an increase in drug overdoses. Experts say the following factors are to blame:

Stress over money. Financial uncertainty has affected everyone, not just substance abusers. But drugs affect the central nervous systems of people with SUD, eroding their ability to cope with stress.

Social isolation. Loneliness is a curse for people with SUD. Without access to friends or family members, they have been overdosing alone with no one to call for help.

Lack of care. Many addiction centers have had to close their doors or limit services, leaving patients with nowhere to turn for treatment.

Loss of support groups. People with SUD need connection with others who have recovered or who are in recovery. But many groups have stopped meeting because of social distancing.

Thankfully, federal and state governments have taken steps to address the opioid epidemic amid COVID-19. Healthcare providers today have options they can offer their patients with SUD. Here's a look at two critical changes in care delivery and how you can help.

Telehealth services. Make sure the people in your community know about your telehealth services. People with SUD can benefit by meeting online with providers, addiction counselors, or support groups.

Relaxed prescription restrictions. New regulations have made it easier for people in recovery to get helpful drugs like methadone and naltrexone. For instance, some patients can now get 30-day doses instead of the usual 15-day quantity.

As the pandemic and opioid epidemic continue to collide, remember your patients with substance abuse issues. Make it easy for them to get the help they need and to get it quickly. As healthcare marketers, let's work together to keep your community educated and informed in the fight against opioid addiction.