The coronavirus pandemic has added layers upon layers of stress to most peoples’ lives. Many who had already struggled with drug addiction leaned further into the hazardous habit, which could explain why there was a 30% increase in fatal drug overdoses across the country during the first year of the pandemic.
The harrowing news of the 30% overdose fatality spike comes from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Researchers there used data from October 2019 to October 2020. Fatal overdose deaths in October were tallied at 70,669, and the total in October 2020 was 91,862.
What Caused the Increase in Fatal Overdoses?
The leading culprit in the fatal drug overdose statistics is fentanyl. NIDA calculates that more than 50% of the drug overdose deaths during the pandemic involved fentanyl or another similar synthetic opiate. Methamphetamine deaths rose by nearly 50%, though, and cocaine deaths rose by nearly 40%.
As mentioned, it has been theorized that the stresses of the pandemic compounded with unique stresses of 2020 – such as joblessness, evictions, heated election campaign trails, societal unrest, etc. – created a depressing, anxious atmosphere for most people. Anyone who was struggling with drug addiction likely felt more pressure than ever to use a narcotic to try to “escape” the stressful reality of the world while not realizing, or refusing to acknowledge, that narcotic use would only worsen their stress, health, finances, and overall situation. With fentanyl making up more than half of the overdose fatalities amid the pandemic, it can also be assumed that many overdose victims might have been relatively new users who did not know of fentanyl’s strength or did not know it could have been in some of the other narcotics they were using. As little as 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be enough to cause a fatal overdose.
Another possible cause of fatal overdose increases could be the decreases in available treatments and support groups during the pandemic. Many in-person treatment and support options have been halted until further notice because gatherings of any kind proved to be the fastest way for the virus to spread. Without their normal support, many people struggling with addictions to dangerous drugs could have experienced significant regression and upped their drug usage.
Drug Use Weakens the Immune System to COVID
Adding injury to injury, studies have historically shown that substance use disorders – including alcohol addiction – weaken the immune system, and that is a major problem during a pandemic. Not only were people with substance abuse disorders putting themselves at risk of overdose complications or death while using narcotics in the last year, but they were, perhaps unknowingly, increasing their risk of catching COVID-19 and suffering severe symptoms.
NIDA researchers used more than 7 million electronic patient records to determine that people with substance addictions were 9 to 10 times more likely to catch the coronavirus than people without such addictions. People with substance abuse disorders were also about 50% more likely to suffer a COVID-related fatality and 33% more likely to need hospitalization, including ICU treatments.
Overcoming Substance Addictions
With the writing on the wall about how substance addictions became even more dangerous during the pandemic, there is no better time than today to explore your alcohol addiction and drug addiction treatment options. The sooner you can put your foot down and make a stand against addiction, the safer you will be, both from the dangers of an overdose and the dangers of the coronavirus.
If you or a loved one is dealing with addiction, then call (844) 292-5010 and connect with Decision Point Center. We use a tried-and-trusted approach to addiction recovery that centers on your story and your triggers. No one is put into a box and given a cookie-cutter recovery program here. Everyone is seen as an individual and a friend in need, just as it should be.
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