Opioid overdoses skyrocketed nearly 30% in 2020, according to a study published by JAMA Psychiatry

According to a large cross-sectional study published in JAMA Psychiatry on Feb. 3, opioid overdoses skyrocketed nearly 29 percent in 2020, another adverse effect largely due to lockdowns.

The study, which analyzed nearly 190 million emergency department (ED) visits, found significantly higher rates of visits to EDs for opioid overdoses during the months of March to October 2020 when compared against the same dates in 2019. The study found that, from mid-April onward, the weekly rates of ED visits for drug overdoses increased by up to 45% when compared against the same period in 2019. Overall ED visits for opioid overdoses were up 28.8% year over year. While some survived these overdoses, many others were not so lucky. “The increase in overdose deaths is concerning,” said Deb Houry, M.D., M.P.H., director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention about the rising rates of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic [ABC].

A real time tracking system showed a 15% increase in opioid related deaths in Michigan between March and October 2020, this coincides with the introduction of lockdowns. During this time period there was also a 29% increase in instances where first responders had to use naloxone, this is a drug that can be used to reverse an opioid overdose. A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have noted an increase of opioid overdoses in black and Hispanic residents in Philadelphia. Fatal opioid overdoses for black Philadelphia residents went up by 60% between April to June 2020, this is in direct comparison to data from December 2020 to February 2020.

“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” said former CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield in December. This same JAMA Psychiatry study found that emergency department visits for mental health conditions, intimate partner violence, and child abuse and neglect increased during the same time period as did suicide attempts. 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,” said Linville M. Meadows, M.D., a physician and author on addictions.

The CDC (Centre of Disease Control) has put out a warning that the measures being taken will have a detrimental effect on opioid overdoses. The CDC has confirmed that between May 2019 and May 2020, 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred, the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period. Lockdown Restrictions have caused rehabilitation centers to either restrict their operating hours or close altogether. People suffering from addiction have not only found medicine more difficult to come by, but their support network has been vastly reduced or eliminated altogether. Opioid overdoses can be prevented with the timely administration of naloxone. At this stage, naloxone is limited to medical professionals only [Medical Express].




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