July is upon us, which means that more data has been gathered as we enter month four of COVID-19 quarantines. We have already shared alarming stats about addiction increases during this pandemic (particularly when it comes to alcohol). And tragically, fatal overdoses are on the rise too. PBS NewsHour recently shared some new metrics related to fatal ODs and they are not encouraging.
The PBS NewsHour segment pulled information from a recent Washington Post article tied to pandemics and overdoses. According to that data, OD emergency room visits were up by 18 percent in March, 29 percent in April and (astonishingly) 42 percent in May. Since June just ended, we can expect to hear results from that month in the coming weeks.
Heather Long, the author of The Washington Post piece, spoke to NewsHour about the findings.
“Basically, the opioid epidemic is back since we went to these stay-at-home mandates in late March and most of the country, we’ve started to see a really alarming spike in drug overdoses and in some cases, overdose deaths,” Long told PBS. “The May spike is particularly surprising. Even as the economy was starting to reopen, there was still this real cry for help with people turning to drugs for some sort of relief.”
Long went on to tell NewsHour that social isolation could be a key contributor to these new stats. Through her research, which included interviews with experts and struggling addicts, Long found that issues like job loss and loneliness were major drivers in getting people to use.
Another interesting fact that Long shared concerned the strains of opioids causing these overdoses. As we’ve discussed before, the drug trade has dealt with some severe disruptions since quarantining began. Now contraband is much harder to get in to the U.S., leading to new chemical compounds that may be quite dangerous. Unsafe mixtures of street drugs are now being distributed, with harsher outside ingredients that could lead to severe, negative reactions.
Long emphasized that distribution issues such as these could be a key contributor to the overdose spikes.
“Unfortunately, unlike toilet paper, drugs are not all the same,” she concluded. “And so what we’re seeing is people are getting things that are maybe much stronger than they’re used to or a weird combination. And unfortunately, that’s leading to more overdoses.”
You can watch the full PBS NewsHour report on this below…