Drug Overdoses And The Need For Treatment During COVID-19

Social isolation during the pandemic, along with other issues, has resulted in a recent spike in drug overdoses. While the pandemic has strained treatment centers, safe and effective care is still available both onsite and online.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to stay-at-home orders and shutdowns throughout the U.S. in an effort to keep people safe and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with patients.

Despite the changes that have occurred in many communities due to the pandemic, it’s crucial to seek professional treatment for addiction rather than self-medicating at home.

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Drug Overdoses Spike During The Pandemic

Drug overdoses, including opioid overdoses, have been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even places that have recently seen declines in drug overdoses, such as Kentucky, have experienced a return to rising overdose numbers.

Over the past few months, cases of suspected fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses have continued to increase based on drug-related emergency calls and other sources:

  • Suspected overdoses rose nationally in March by 18 percent compared to last year.
  • In April of this year, the number of suspected overdoses in the U.S. increased by 29 percent, while this number jumped to 42 percent in May.
  • Some places have seen a sharp rise in emergency dispatch calls related to drug overdoses in recent months, such as the 50 percent increase in these calls in Milwaukee County.

This increase in drug overdoses during the pandemic shows a turn in the wrong direction compared to where the U.S. has been heading overall.

The CDC showed that fatal drug overdoses were beginning to decrease as of 2018. According to the CDC, a total of 67,367 fatal drug overdoses occurred in the U.S. in 2018. This was a 4.6 percent decrease compared to 2017.

As of July 2020, the CDC projected that 70,980 overdose deaths occurred in 2019, effectively eliminating the downward trend in 2018. This latest number also sets a new record high, leading some experts to predict the numbers will only grow worse in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Understanding The Effects Of Social Isolation

Social isolation has been one of the key factors associated with the rise in drug overdoses during the pandemic. For some, the loneliness and lack of social interaction can trigger depression, which can increase the risk of overdosing or relapsing for those who have recovered.

Social isolation is also a danger in terms of getting help in the event of an overdose. Individuals who overdose on drugs might not have anyone around them to call for emergency care, which raises the risk of fatalities.

For those with opioid use disorder, social isolation can also mean they do not have someone available to administer an emergency dose of naloxone or Narcan. This drug is used as a way to prevent opioid overdoses from being fatal.

Other Factors Leading To Drug Overdoses

In addition to social isolation, the current pandemic has led some individuals to turn to new substances or get substances from unfamiliar sources. This raises the risk of accidentally overdosing or having an adverse reaction to taking something you never have before.

Authorities had hoped that shutdowns would lead to lower amounts of drug use and overdoses if individuals were unable to get substances from their usual sources.

The sudden change to many people’s everyday lives due to widespread shutdowns is another factor associated with an increased risk of substance misuse or overdose.

Some individuals lost their jobs overnight as businesses were forced to temporarily or permanently close or find ways to reduce operating costs. The loss of wages combined with social isolation has led some to cope with added stress through self-medicating substance use.

Effects Of The Pandemic On Addiction Treatment Centers

Addiction treatment centers play an important role in managing the opioid epidemic overall and reducing the risk of overdoses among patients with substance use disorders.

During the pandemic, some treatment centers have had to close temporarily, while others have had to close permanently.

Some addiction treatment centers have also had to reduce the types of services they offer or how often services are available, making it more difficult for patients to get the help they need.

Nonprofit centers that provide behavioral health services, including addiction treatment, have been severely affected by a lack of funding and a drop in reimbursements. This has reduced options for treatment in some areas while the need for treatment has increased.

Safe And Effective Online And On-Site Addiction Treatment

With the increased risk of drug overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to find professional care and support now instead of waiting or delaying treatment.

Addiction Campuses offers effective and compassionate care for those suffering from substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders.

We provide on-site rehab services and programs in several states, as well as online options for added support and flexibility. Our services include medical detox, inpatient care, intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), and more.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Drug Overdose Deaths, Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts

KPBS - Rise In Drug Overdoses Could Be Directly Tied To COVID-19 Unemployment

Washington Post - Drug Overdoses Are Soaring During The Coronavirus Pandemic

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