COVID-19 And The Opioid Epidemic
During the week of Thanksgiving, the United States surpassed 267,000 COVID-19 related deaths. The spike in cases has the country scrambling as companies race to approve a vaccine. Since the start of the year, the media and governments worldwide have remained focused on the urgent health crisis. Yet, as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the states, another epidemic is growing in its shadows.
The 2020 Opioid Epidemic
The Opioid epidemic is picking up momentum once again. In a recent study published by the Vermont Department of Health, the rate of Opioid-related overdoses rose. Non-fatal overdoses climbed up 137% from 2019 to 2020. Experts suspect that drug-related deaths will be even higher.
The global pandemic is creating the perfect conditions for a deadly storm. Why? There is no exact reason, but loneliness is a significant contributor. According to the National Institutes of Health, loneliness increases the probability of making hazardous choices. The sensation is a leading risk factor for depression, anxiety, and comorbidity. Since most of 2020 has centered around social distancing and protecting the public, it is no surprise people are lonelier than ever. The distancing measures have helped contain the spread of the disease yet also led to higher loneliness rates.
Other reasons for the jumps are disrupting drug supply and the end of in-person prevention and treatment services. Based on data released by the White House’s drug policy office, the long term effects of the COVID-19 crisis are already being felt. By April of this year, drug overdose deaths were up 11.4%. Non-fatal overdoses were also up 18.6% in comparison to 2019.
Below are some of the states dealing with a rise in drug overdose fatalities based on recently released data:
- Connecticut, up 19%
- Colorado, up 28%
- Kentucky, up 30%
- Cook County, Illinois, up 28%
- Maryland, up 9.1%
The states listed are only some of the many dealing with a rise in drug-related deaths. These numbers are shocking, but unfortunately, it is not the first time this has happened.
The Opioid Epidemic Throughout The Years
For over 30 years, Opioids have been wreaking havoc in the United States. The first fatal wave of the epidemic began in the 1990s. During those early years, pharmaceutical companies pushed medical professionals to prescribe the drug. Their aggressive campaign lasted nearly a decade. Eventually, through misleading marketing and false claims, those companies succeeded in making Opioids mainstream.
By reassuring that Opioids had little to no health risks, big pharmaceutical companies caused a ripple, leading to the Opioid epidemic. Countless physicians over-prescribed the painkiller. Within a few years, communities across the country were hooked and feeling the drug’s destructive effects.
Outbreaks quickly sprouted in different cities. The first Opioid wave in 1999 killed thousands of individuals. The next big surge started in 2002 and lasted nearly a decade. From 2002 to 2013, heroin-related overdoses increased by 286%. Within 11 years, the age-adjusted drug overdose death rate doubled. In 2000, 6.2 people were overdosing per 100,000 persons. Four years later, the number rose to 14.7 per 100,000. The third wave was caused by synthetic Opioids like Fentanyl and started in 2013. By 2016, 63,600 people had died from a drug overdose. The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths rose by 21%. This surge was the deadliest, with over 19.8 people overdosing per 100,000 persons.
Today the Opioid epidemic is once again picking up momentum. In 2019, 18 states and the District of Columbia reported a 10% increase in Opioid-related fatalities. Drug overdoses rose 4.6%, with over 70,980 recorded deaths. This uptick follows a decline reported in 2018 after 30 years of increasing cases. The Trump administration considered the short-lived win as one of their most outstanding achievements. Unfortunately, according to preliminary federal data, the number of lethal overdoses in 2019 surpassed 2018’s cases and even 2017’s. The amount of Opioid-related deaths are expected to rise even further this year. Experts are projecting more than 75,000 people dying from suicide or drug and alcohol use.
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Since one of the main themes of this year is social distancing, it is no surprise that loneliness has pushed many people towards drugs. The current pandemic, economic downturn, and political climate are pushing people past their limits. Humans should not be isolated from one another or under constant stress. The pandemic, fear, and loneliness are driving Americans to use Opioids for relief. We must not forget about the deadly epidemic that is still destroying the lives of families worldwide. The Opioid epidemic is not over yet.