Drug Overdoses Spiking in Midst of Pandemic
The early warnings appear to have come true regarding what effect the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine would have on the escalating opioid epidemic and overdoses. According to a recent report using data from ambulance teams, hospitals, and police, overdoses jumped nationally 18 percent in March, 29 percent in April, and an even more disturbing 42 percent in May. (Washingtonpost.com) White House drug czar Jim Carroll has also acknowledged his level of concern has gone up since the pandemic, noting that overdoses were already on the rise last year after posting a rare decline in 2018. (politico.com) This is a troubling trend and with new cases spiking and local governments still scrambling to contain the spread in many parts of the country, the worst is still likely to come.
While researching the recent spikes in overdoses during the pandemic, I have seen it called the hidden epidemic underneath the pandemic. This may be true when it comes to media coverage and the general attention of the country, but for the families suffering from the grief of losing a loved one to addiction there is nothing hidden about how real of a problem this has become. There are many factors that can be attributed to why we are seeing such a sharp spike in addicts succumbing to their addictions during the current climate of the world. Treatment centers across the country are scrambling to adapt to local and federal guidelines to keep their centers and patients safe, causing disruptions on the efficiency that people reaching for help can get into treatment. Travel restrictions and mandatory self-quarantines have also created logistic problems for those looking to find immediate help for their addictions.
Then there is the quarantine itself and how that has directly affected addicts and their lifestyles. With no jobs to go to or ways to get out of the isolation that often accompanies addiction, addicts already struggling have had even more time to abuse drugs which can naturally cause more severe abuse and overdoses. As a former addict myself, I have been thankful that I did not live through all of this while I was still struggling with my addiction. The loneliness and despair magnified by the inability to leave the house or have any kind of outlet to get out of my head is not something I envy for people who are struggling with addiction in today’s climate. The uncertainty surrounding our country also would have likely weighted on me and my lifestyle, perhaps creating even more despair and drug seeking. Unfortunately, I am saddened but not surprised to see the numbers where they are given all the circumstances.
It would be difficult to put any kind of positive spin on what is happening with the spiking overdoses amidst this pandemic. I find it heartbreaking and empathize with those that are going through it. That includes grieving family members who have been dealt the reality of it already being too late to save their loved one. For those who still go to sleep at night with the hope that things can change, perhaps this is yet another eye opener that our current strategies and methods to fight the opioid epidemic and addiction crisis need to be re-evaluated. Perhaps more kindness, hope, encouragement, and resources can finally be directed towards the addicts living among us to help resolve and handle the problem rather than punish and condemn them to figure it out for themselves.
I acknowledge that it can be very difficult to understand the mind of an addict when driven by drug dependency, and how difficult of a time this is for many Americans and citizens around the world. Addicts need our help now more than ever, and proper education and attention on what our current events are doing to them is paramount if the problem is ever going to see a decline. If you or anyone you know needs help, please reach out.