A new study indicates that the opioid crisis in the US is deepening because of a new threat — the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to latest research, the opioid epidemic didn’t disappear. Rather, it lurked in the shadows of the coronavirus pandemic, growing in strength & taking advantage of a society now more susceptible than ever.
In a large cross-sectional study published in JAMA Psychiatry on Feb. 3 that analyzed nearly 190 million emergency department (ED) visits, researchers found significantly higher rates of visits to EDs for opioid overdoses during the months of March to October 2020 when compared against the same dates in 2019. The study found that, from mid-April onward, the weekly rates of ED visits for drug overdoses increased by up to 45% when compared against the same period in 2019.
“The increase in overdose deaths is concerning,” said Deb Houry, M.D., M.P.H., director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention about the rising rates of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC said in December that the rate of overdose deaths was accelerating during the pandemic, driven by synthetic opioids, which rose 38.4% during the year leading up to June 2020.
Any force that threatens mental health leaves society more susceptible to the threat of addictions.
For some, this force may be the fear of contracting COVID-19. For others, the stress of losing a job. And others, the boredom of being trapped in your home with nothing to do.
This same JAMA Psychiatry study found that emergency department visits for mental health conditions, intimate partner violence, and child abuse / neglect increased during the same time period as did suicide attempts.
While many lives were saved with stay-at-home orders, these savings were not without cost. While vaccines appear to have provided a light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel, America will need to face its growing problem of social isolation and mental illness in the age of the internet, experts say.
“Social distancing has forced many 12 Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, to suspend their meetings. The need for an effective treatment for substance abuse has never been greater,” said Linville M. Meadows, M.D., a physician and author on addictions.
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Original article written by Dr. Nicholas Nissen, M.D., a clinical fellow & resident physician in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School & an ABC News Medical Unit doctor.