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Drug Overdoses Surge During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As we enter the fifth month of the coronavirus pandemic’s effects in the United States, grim news comes from the fight against drug addiction. As the coronavirus pandemic surges across the country, so too have drug overdoses.

It is not an entirely unexpected trend—with many struggling with drug addiction now facing the disease in isolation from their recovery groups, friends, and family, many experts predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to increases in depression and anxiety. Particularly for those just beginning their journey in recovery, the timing of this global event has been a source of significant stress.

As the months roll on, and many states face new spikes of coronavirus infections, millions across the country continue to face economic hardship, fear for the unknown, and a sense of fatigue due to restrictions of social distancing and isolation.

Overdoses Increase Across the Country

In 2018, drug overdose deaths fell for the first time in 25 years. Today, the nation takes a step back, as overdoses increase everywhere from Maine to Alaska.

As reported by the Washington Post, regions of the country are facing overdose increases where they had formerly experienced a downturn. In just one instance, Roanoke County, Virginia police “have responded to twice as many fatal overdoses in recent months as in all of last year.”

This report is not an isolated event. The New York Times states that as a whole, drug overdoses have increased by 13 percent so far this year when compared to last year’s statistics. By the end of 2020, we could see the highest number of drug overdoses on record.

While the coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented, the epidemic of opioid and other drug addictions has a storied history in our country. As COVID-19 infections began to rise, headlines became dominated by the virus and its rippling effects. Behind the scenes, millions still struggled with addiction—in an entirely different landscape with different challenges to overcome.

Quoted by the Times, a spokeswoman for the Cook County, Illinois medical examiner’s office stated that were it not for COVID-19, “[…] these opioid deaths are all we’d be talking about right now.”

The Race to Provide Safe Treatment  

As states scale back their re-openings, the effects of COVID-19—whether economic, medical, social, or mental—persist across the United States. Mental health concerns are on the rise, with Arizona healthcare providers reporting a significant increase in people with depression and anxiety in recent months.

In that report from local station KOLD News 13, doctors indicate that patients with a history of substance abuse are dealing with cravings. A study published a group of Ohio agencies also found suicide has been on the rise over the past decade, and that the circumstances of the pandemic could cause those figures to worsen. Anxieties regarding job loss, severe disruption to everyday life, and relationship issues are all factors to be considered, with mental health professionals on high alert.

While mental health concerns grow, it’s more crucial than ever to offer support to those who are struggling with substance use disorders. As addiction is already a disease of isolation, the effects of further separation and loneliness can lead to significant challenges for an individual who is in active addiction or on the path to recovery.

The availability of safe and professional treatment during this time can make all the difference in a recovering addict’s experience. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we must not lose sight of those who are feeling isolated as they struggle with drug addiction or recovery.

If you are struggling with increased feelings of isolation or anxiety due to COVID-19, know that you are not alone. We are here to help at RECO.

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