The social and financial crises stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic are contributing to more overdoses, less accessible care, and an overall aggravation of the opioid epidemic.
As the spread of coronavirus has prompted closures of businesses, job loss, and financial distress nationwide, overdoses have increased throughout the country. According to a report on this issue from Forbes, “suspected overdoses jumped 18% in March, 29% in April and 42% in May.”
Meanwhile, as overdoses are increasing, people who struggle with addiction are unable to receive treatment. Treatment centers and other institutions have been ordered to close to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, “a third of Americans [noted] disruptions in care and about 14% [said] they’re unable to access treatment at all.”
The worsening of the opioid crisis is expected to continue as the COVID-19 pandemic and related conditions progress. To combat this, expansive measures are needed. Guidance on how to manage the co-occurring crises was released by the American Medical Association (AMA) on July 20th. Among their suggestions is the importance of making naloxone (Narcan) more readily available. Naloxone is effective in addressing opioid overdoses; however, naloxone is currently only required to be co-prescribed with opioids in 8 states. The expansion of this practice could be lifesaving for people who are unable to access other forms of treatment due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Experts who contributed to the article from Forbes also emphasized that people who struggle with substance abuse are more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. The connection between the pandemic and the opioid epidemic is strong and is an issue that will require extensive legislative action and healthcare reform to address.