As anyone in the addiction community can tell you, drug overdoses were devastatingly common during the pandemic. Anecdotally, people were relapsing in numbers. Many people in sober housing situations and treatment centers were left on their own in the early days of the pandemic. Sadly, this led to many overdoses and deaths.
Now, the numbers are in for a portion of the pandemic, and they’re startling. Fatal drug overdoses increased by nearly 30%. Opioid overdoses from pills, heroin, fentanyl, and other similar substances increased by almost 40%. This is triple the number from previous years.
Total, the CDC has recorded over 82,000 overdose deaths between September 2020 and September 2021.
The Deadly Rise Of Fentanyl
The majority of opioid deaths involved fentanyl. Fentanyl is a potent drug that is more than 50 times the strength of morphine. For inexperienced users, it’s an overdose threat that is regularly added to street drugs and pills bought off of the internet. For many users, it’s deadly.
Only the gravely ill, such as car accident victims or people with cancer, are prescribed fentanyl as a patch. It’s strong enough that it is routinely used in surgery. Yet misusing fentanyl can cause an overdose that is nearly impossible to reverse, assuming the medics get there in time. Paramedics regularly encounter people who have overdosed on fentanyl and other drugs who need to have four or five doses of Naloxone, an overdose reversal drug.
During the pandemic, overdoses became more likely as people were socially isolated and took their drugs alone. People in recovery who overdosed may not have had enough tolerance for the strength of drugs with fentanyl.
An Influx of Cash Needed for Addiction Treatment
Recently, President Biden requested $10.7 billion from Congress to support medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other mental health services. The money is much-needed in states that have been struggling for decades with an addiction epidemic that has only grown during the COVID-19 crisis.
Some states are also soon getting much-needed cash from the opioid lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, the makers of Oxycontin. Many government entities plan on using the money to build more treatment centers and provide more outpatient addiction treatment services. Only helping people get sober and find recovery from addiction can help stem the tide of overdoses.