Consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are causing the number of drug overdoses, many opioid-related, to spike all around the country. Overdoses increased nationally by 18 percent in March, 29 percent in April and 42 percent in May, according to data from the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program. Before the pandemic hit, there were signs of at least a partial decline in fatal overdoses.
What Is Behind the Rise in Overdoses During the Pandemic?
Experts point to a perfect storm of side effects from the pandemic contributing to the rise in overdoses:
- As borders closed interrupting the usual drug supply chain, people began using new drugs they were not accustomed to.
- Synthetic drugs like fentanyl became more commonly mixed with harder to find narcotics.
- Many addiction treatment centers either closed or scaled back operations.
- People began spending more time alone with no social contact or support network.
- The nature of the crisis heightened fear, anxiety and depression.
- For many, unemployment and disruption of daily routine have led to substance abuse.
Little or No Help for the Drug Overdose Problem
Help for this issue is slow to come since so many resources are consumed by the pandemic. Only a fraction of the $2.5 trillion Cares Act funds were marked for mental and behavioral health care. Another example, the National Institutes of Health halted a billion-dollar program researching new forms of addiction treatment as part of a freeze on non-COVID-19 work.
The Personal Effect COVID-19 Is Having on Substance Use Disorder
Putting a more human face on the growing tragedy, a Washington Post article on the topic detailed the sad story of Steve Manzo. Manzo was an addict in longtime recovery who lost his job due to the virus and died alone of a fatal overdose two weeks later.
“We deal with a population of people who are very bad at connecting with others,” said GateHouse Chief Science Officer Dr. Samuel MacMaster in a recent national online seminar. “We believe people heal in community and suffer in isolation.”
GateHouse Treatment Continues Addiction Treatment Despite the Pandemic
While GateHouse Treatment has struggled along with the rest of the industry, we quickly put in place measures to combat the COVID-19 crisis. Our telehealth options and other practices allow us to continue serving the growing number of clients who need our help now more than ever. And now, GateHouse is doubling down, opening our newest treatment center in Tennessee, one of the hot spots in the opioid epidemic.
If you’re struggling with addiction or alcoholism, know that you are not alone in this crisis. There is always help available. Reach out to us at 855-448-3706 or contact us through the website.
For a look at how the beginning of the pandemic impacted drug treatment, watch GateHouse cofounder Christopher Barnett and Dr. Samuel MacMaster discuss the issue in a national online forum: https://bit.ly/GHT-COVID.