The toll of COVID-19 is being felt everywhere in the country. Isolation from friends and family, fear of or battles with the illness, job losses, childcare struggles – the stress of the situation is resulting in a mental health crisis nationwide. Nowhere is this more evident than in the state of the opioid crisis. A recent article by Suhail Bhat, writing for NPR, explores the sharp surge of overdose deaths that have accompanied the pandemic crisis in America.
According to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 81,000 people have died of drug overdoses in the 12 months prior to May 2020. Among the sharpest rises are spikes occurring in the Ohio Valley region in states such as West Virginia and Kentucky.
Read the article here: READ MORE: “Overdose Deaths Hit New Highs As Pandemic Worsens Opioid Crisis” by Suhail Bhat
“While already alarmingly high, drug overdose deaths have climbed to their highest rates ever recorded during the global pandemic” notes Dr. Kevin Baldwin of Applied Research Services in Atlanta, Georgia.
The destabilizing effects of COVID-19 and the disruption of support systems have left people suffering from substance use disorders in an extremely vulnerable position. “The economic impacts of COVID-19, along with the heavy toll of pandemic-related closures and social distancing requirements, have curtailed the ability of persons with substance use disorders to participate in face-to-face treatment and community support services,” says Baldwin.
In response to the crisis the CDC has addressed itself to health care workers and first responders to recommend early intervention. This along with increased use of use anti-overdose drugs could serve to preserve more lives. However, as the surge in COVID cases continues to stress health systems across the nation, there is some doubt regarding the ability of these treatments to reach those who need them most.
Ultimately, unless something is done and soon, the outlook seems grim. “The results are tragic and point to the pressing need to increase specific overdose prevention efforts,” says Baldwin. “There is also an immediate need to develop non-traditional, virtual treatment and support services that better emulate face-to-face treatment and community support services.”