Though the 2020 statistics aren’t quite final yet, all indicators are pointing to a devastating year for addicted Americans. Fatal opioid overdoses, in fact, may have reached 90,000 during the previous 12 months span. That is a tremendous number and a possible 30 percent increase over 2019. So if this is the case, then the U.S. opioid crisis is sadly far from over.
This latest data was reported by The Washington Post, from preliminary metrics pulled together by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breaking it down even further, the tally appears to show roughly 9,000 overdose deaths for each month of 2020.
For reference, 2019’s fatal OD stats hovered at around 70,000; still very alarming, to say the least. But with COVID-19 factored in, heightened anxieties and less access to recovery resources, the numbers just kept shooting up (with May being the worst month of the year).
The Post article highlighted multiple schools of thought on where the crisis may head from here. On the one hand, there is hope that things may take a turn for the better as more vaccines are rolled out and the world eases back into normalcy. But some recovery advocates interviewed for the piece feel otherwise and are worried that behaviors that were set in motion during 2020 may continue.
“Coronavirus will stabilize, but you’re going to see overdoses go up, sadly,” Gary Mendell, founder of the sober advocacy group Shatterproof, told The Post. “The very intervention that helped slow the spread of the coronavirus — staying away from other people — is exactly what makes it more likely that people will start abusing drugs and stop seeking help for it. Isolation is needed to stop covid, but it makes the opioid crisis worse”
It is also worth pointing out that we have a new commander-in-chief for 2021. President Joe Biden was mentioned in the article as well, with a call out to an 11-page paper his staff released last week outlining his administration’s approach to drug abuse. The Post mentions that many of its approaches are similar to what former president Donald Trump proposed, but there is explicit language calling support for safe injection sites; where users get access to clean needles and recovery counselors.
Interestingly, the fact that it has so many similarities to Trump’s plan makes Biden’s paper a bit more controversial. Many activists, including Mendell, feel his words aren’t aggressive enough and are calling for more immediate action. There is also criticism about the fact that Biden has yet to appoint a lead for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (a U.S. “drug czar” figurehead, if you will). In truth, a move like that would certainly show commitment to the cause; but we feel a lot more needs to be done if we hope to bring those annual overdose numbers down.