The pandemic has ushered in a new era of the opioid crisis, where people are relapsing or escalating their drug use. Addiction is costing more lives. Overdoses in some places have nearly doubled since last year, and there is no sense of the health crisis easing.
The Wall Street Journal published data suggesting that opioid deaths will greatly outnumber last year, which was also a record. In 2019, the United States recorded 72,000 deaths.
Opioid Use Disorder: Relapsing and Lacking Support
Many anecdotes of drug overdoses are about people who had been clean and sober for years. Feeling trapped and isolated, recovering addicts sometimes relapsed. However, they have no tolerance to drugs and maybe no reliable supplier. Addiction forces them to illicit drug deals with strangers. Many of the pills sold online and on the street also contain fentanyl, a drug that is over 100 times more powerful than morphine. Many people cannot handle it, and overdose at home, alone.
Other people who relapsed from opioids may have been taking medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Due to coronavirus restrictions, some of the people reliant on this medication lost access to the drug because clinics closed. Others have barriers to continuing their treatment. Without these drugs, people are often extremely susceptible to relapse.
Becoming Addicted At Home
People have been abusing more substances all-around when it comes to substance use. In the US, people are drinking more and there are spikes in opioid-involved overdoses as well as people overdosing on benzos. This is not expected to stop anytime soon.
Reactions to financial instability, job loss, and fear of the unknown such as the coronavirus often trigger a wave of substance use. People use substances as a coping mechanism when they feel hopeless, afraid, or useless. With large quantities of layoffs and possible millions of people in danger of losing their housing, there is a large amount of despair.
Focusing on Helping
Counties and cities in most states have been requesting more money in the aftermath of COVID-19. Many treatment centers have re-opened and put strict COVID-19 safety rules in place.
Dr. Michael Gorden, medical director for The Berman Center, an Atlanta-based addiction treatment facility, told Healthline the problems with treatment access have been compounded with COVID-19.
“Many have relapsed due to closing of treatment agencies, loss of access to medications used to treat addictions, loss of a job, loss of affordable housing, and unavailability of locations that offered support groups prior to the pandemic resulting in increased social isolation,” he told Healthline News.