As we enter the second month of 2021, new data is finally coming back about addictions and overdoses over the past 12 months. And the sad (but not entirely surprising) news is that there have been some sharp increases. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantines, 2020 has been noted as a devastating year; which is only further emphasized by the amount of fatal ODs.
ABC News was one of the first to release these latest stats. According to research they gathered from The National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 70,000 lives were lost to drug overdoses in 2020. All in all, that is a 29 percent jump over what was reported in 2019 (which, in itself, was a record setting year for ODs).
It is believed that issues stemming from the coronavirus greatly contributed to this latest spike. Anxieties were at an all-time high, making people even more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse. ABC also released data from JAMA Psychiatry, who published their own 2020 study this month. Their findings showed that drug-related emergency room visits went up by 45 percent since the onset of the pandemic.
Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) director Dr. Robert Redfield was quoted in the piece. He placed direct blame on COVID-19 for these latest stats.
“The increase in overdose deaths is extremely concerning,” Dr. Redfield told the site. “The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard. And let’s not forget that social distancing has forced many 12 Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, to suspend their meetings. The need for an effective treatment for substance abuse has never been greater.”
Dr. Redfield certainly makes a good point there. Not only did the stressors of 2020 drive more people to use, it also became much harder to seek out effective treatment and recovery programs.
Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, were also called out as a big contributor to the overdose fatalities. JAMA research showed that deaths by these types of drugs rose by more than 38 percent in 2020. The top reasons listed for these habits included job losses, loneliness and even quarantine boredom (all of which directly tie back to the pandemic).
Unfortunately, the COVID vaccines may not be the quick fix to addictions that everyone is hoping for. A lot more work needs to be done to condition people away from drugs like opioids, even after “normal life” resumes. In our opinion, it is never too early to begin the journey towards recovery. If this is an issue that you or someone you care about is struggling with, please reach out for help.