From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to April 2021, the virus has claimed well over half a million Americans. However, the full impact of Coronavirus extends even further than this figure. Untold numbers of people are suffering from so-called long COVID, which entails fatigue and brain fog for months; maybe longer. The stress, fear, and economic hardship of the pandemic has also made 2020 the worst year in a long, sorrowful struggle against drug addiction.
The Worst Year of the Overdose Epidemic
Since the start of the opioid epidemic and worsening substance abuse trends, there’s been a series of ups and downs. In the early years of the 2010s, there was an initial improvement as doctors began scaling back prescriptions of highly addictive opioids. However, these gains were largely reversed when fentanyl, a designer drug with 50-100x the potency of prescription painkillers hit the streets.
According to a report from the CDC, trends had begun to reverse in 2017-2018. Thanks to a combination of improving education, better science for rehab facilities, and other factors, the rate of overdose dropped by over 4%. However, the trends reversed sharply in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. During 2020, overdoses skyrocketed by 18%. The deaths themselves typically result from dangerous synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. However, more potent illicit drugs cannot explain the upward trends in mortality alone.
Why Have Overdoses Skyrocketed?
Synthetic opioids are a key factor in the growing rates of overdose, but they’re not the only element at play. For instance, there was a large increase in fatalities when COVID-19 began spreading in the United States during spring 2020 as well as successive increases.
Avoiding Public Spaces Due to Virus Fears
Many people who are at risk for opioid addiction also have good reason to fear the Coronavirus, such as those who are older and more likely to suffer from chronic pain. In fact, as many as one million elderly Americans struggle with a substance use disorder. Furthermore, people of all ages are afraid of COVID either for themselves or out of fear of passing it onto a vulnerable loved one. This may have contributed to people declining to seek out care.
Coping with Diseases of Despair
Addiction is often co-occurring with mental disorders, and the fearful environment of the pandemic has caused many people to develop anxiety disorders or depression. Not to mention, the financial burdens and other sacrifices that the pandemic has forced upon many Americans. People often lack the support system needed to handle such crises well, and in dire situations, many people resort to drugs as a coping mechanism.
Combatting Rising Overdose Fatalities
With vaccines on the horizon, the end of the pandemic may be in sight. However, we can’t simply wait and hope when people are dying. Measures such as increased naloxone training and availability have the potential to help curb rising overdose fatalities and help reverse these trends once the pandemic does end.
And if you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse, don’t be afraid to seek help; America’s Rehab Campuses are always prepared to help people reclaim their lives from drug addiction.