Coronavirus pandemic compounds another ongoing crisis: the opioid epidemic
Long before the coronavirus pandemic, one of the worst epidemics in the U.S. was opioid abuse. In 2018, the last year complete data was made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 67,000 people died of drug overdoses. Opioids such as heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers like Oxycontin, caused about 70% of those overdose deaths.
The opioid crisis hasn’t gone away since then, and in fact, the pandemic has made it worse, says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “We know that from reports of overdoses, these may have increased 30% [to] 40%,” she says. “We know also that from some of the reports from the states that there have been increases in overdose fatalities, that there have been increases in patients relapsing that had already achieved recovery. So we are hearing these distress calls from throughout the country.”
While public health officials know that social distancing helps stop the spread of the coronavirus, it can also have an adverse effect on those who suffer from substance abuse or psychological issues, Volkow says. Doctors are also particularly concerned about intentional overdoses and other suicide attempts due to coronavirus lockdowns. Read more