It is quite a challenge to quantify how big of an impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on people battling dependencies. In many cases, it could be leading to a spike in addictive habits (such as alcoholism). But it is also wreaking havoc on those who are already hooked on hardcore substances, particularly heroin. According to new data released by the Associated Press, that particular drug may be experiencing a nationwide shortage; which could have some very dangerous consequences.
One big call out with a shortage of illegal heroin is the replacement drugs that addicts may be turning to. A Baltimore Fox affiliate covered that angle, highlighting methadone as a possible substitute for those who can’t receive their fix. We’ve also mentioned how methadone is becoming much easier to attain right now, thanks to a lift of prescription regulations; making it a common “go to” for people in this situation. This can also lead to it becoming much more available as a “street narcotic.”
National Institute of Drug Abuse (or NIDA) director Dr. Nora Volkow has become a prominent spokesperson about addiction during this crisis. She talked with the Fox outlet about her particular concerns regarding the heroin shortage.
“Two things can happen if these addicted Americans cannot get their heroin,” Dr. Volkow emphasized. “If they do not get the product they will search for new ways of getting it. They may also be much more willing to lace the drugs that they have.”
She ended her statement with a strong call to action. As Dr. Volkow explained, “We cannot be complacent during this time.”
CNN happened to cover this topic as well, adding fentanyl as another deadly substitute which may work its way in to people’s habits right now. There are also concerns that people may change the way they ingest these drugs, due to limited supplies. It is often believed, for example, that heroin is more potent when injected. This may lead users to switch to needles to savor whatever small quantities they can get their hands on.
CNN happened to interview another expert, University of Kent professor Alex Stevens. He had his own perspective on the population most affected. A perspective that we happen to agree strongly with.
“I’m very apprehensive about what’s happening right now and what’s going to happen over the next few weeks to this group of our society who are extremely vulnerable,” Kent told CNN. “The coming weeks and months will be crucial in identifying the effects of coronavirus on illegal drug use — and what it means for all of us.”