There’s no shortage of problems spawned by the pandemic. One deserves more attention than it’s getting, even now.
Those suffering from addiction to opioids are worse off than they were in January. While we still don’t know the true cost nationwide, it’s worth talking about the problem, and what (if anything) we can do to help one another.
Snapshot of the Opioid Crisis, 2020-2021
According to several news sources & research studies:
- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported a 39% increase in total deaths from drug overdose between March-June 2020.
- ODMAP, an app that helps health agencies track overdoses, released a June 2020 report on COVID’s impact. 61.8% of participating counties reported increases in overdose reports after March 19.
- Alcohol sales have risen 25% (CNN)
- Millennium Health’s nationwide survey in July revealed a 31.9% increase in non-prescribed fentanyl use!
- Multiple counties reporting an increase in suicides during the “stay at home” orders. Examples include Cook County in Illinois (where Chicago is), Los Alamos County in New Mexico, and Fresno County here in California.
An Epidemic Overshadowed by a Pandemic
Why do we see such sudden and alarming spikes? Yes, it’s due to COVID…but it’s important to know how this happened.
The COVID-19 pandemic has swallowed up healthcare facilities, national attention, and funding. Just as it took away from businesses, it took away from prevention efforts.
The lockdowns and social distancing mandates have caused support groups to stop meeting in person, in favor of online meetings. Narcotics Anonymous has recommended switching to online support groups. While still helpful, some individuals in recovery may still be at a point where remote support options don’t work well enough.
Result: We’re seeing increases in relapses, fatal overdoses, and suicides. People already suffering from addiction, now forced to change the routines that supported their recovery. It’s no surprise that some of us backslide.
One Silver Lining: Easier Access to Telemedicine
We can say one good thing…the pandemic forced changes in the healthcare system that would ordinarily take years. Telemedicine (healthcare given remotely) had begun a slow adoption already, but COVID catapulted it into mainstream use. Long-term, this is a great help for treatment centers as well as medical facilities.
We’ve been using virtual treatment sessions to help our clients. So far, the experience has been largely positive.
We do see more stress among clients, but it’s not due to addiction issues (thankfully). Rather, the stress comes from external elements brought about by the pandemic – job loss, inability to see friends/family, loss of common social gatherings, disruption to daily/weekly routines like going to a coffee shop on Saturdays, etc.
Sadly, this outside stress can still jeopardize rehabilitation. If someone started using substances like cocaine or fentanyl to escape stress, the pattern is already established. They can relapse far too easily.
What Can We Do to Stay Strong?
If you’ve suffered from any addiction (not just opioids), what do you do to stay clean?
- Look to what helps you stay calm. Meditation, walks, exercise, etc.
- Talk with your network. You’re not alone in this.
- Talk about the crisis. The more people who know about the opioid epidemic, the more people can take action. Here are some talking points you can use: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
We Found Ways to Fight Opioid Abuse Before. We’ll Do It Again.
We shared this information because we believe doing so will make more people aware. Our friends & family need support, especially if they’re at risk of an opioid relapse.
While scary, these figures don’t say we’ve lost the war against opioid addiction. The pandemic has pushed back our efforts, but hasn’t defeated them.
We’re still fighting the opioid epidemic, and we’ll keep fighting, pandemic or no. Stay aware, and stay safe.
What’s your current situation look like?
IMPORTANT NOTE: Any & all SSH clients, current and former, should contact us if you need help with stress or relapse concerns.