from the world's big
How exactly is COVID-19 affecting the opioid crisis?
- Drug overdose deaths hit a record high in 2019, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The pandemic seems to be worsening the opioid crisis, possibly due to users' reluctance to visit hospitals, mental health problems, and disruptions to drug supply.
- Still, it's too early to know exactly how the pandemic is transforming drug use in the U.S.
CDC<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Policymakers are faced with impossible choices," Jodi Manz, project director for chronic and vulnerable populations at the National Academy for State Health Policy, told <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/07/16/opioid-overdoses-have-skyrocketed-amid-the-coronavirus-but-states-are-nevertheless-slashing-addiction-treatment-program-budgets/" target="_blank">STAT</a>. "Leaders are being put in situations where they thought they had really significant revenue from the prior year, and just overnight were faced with a very, very different revenue situation."</p><p>The side effects of the pandemic may be worsening the problem, too. For example, stay-at-home orders may put Americans at higher risk of using or relapsing drugs, especially when you consider widespread job losses.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Social isolation has always been a huge component of drug overdose risk," Traci Green, an epidemiologist at Brown University who studies drug addiction, told <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/15/upshot/drug-overdose-deaths.html" target="_blank">The New York Times</a>. "So much of what we've been trying to do has been completely unraveled."</p><p>But perhaps more concerning amid the pandemic is drug users' reluctance to visit hospitals. In Illinois, for example, emergency rooms across Cook County Health have reported a surge in opioid deaths, but no corresponding surge in emergency-room visits for opioids.</p>
A deposit box for used hypodermic needles stands in a park in the South Bronx on March 13, 2019 in New York City.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"This is extremely alarming because an opioid overdose patient will likely live if given naloxone in the ambulance and opioid overdose deaths in the emergency department are a rare event," Dr. Steve Aks, division chair of emergency medicine and toxicology at Cook County Health, told <a href="https://abc7chicago.com/health/cook-county-reports-increase-in-opioid-deaths-amid-covid-19-pandemic-/6316666/" target="_blank">ABC 7 Chicago</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Due to the pandemic, we asked individuals to stay at home unless it is an emergency — an overdose is an emergency."</p><p>Another reason the pandemic may be exacerbating the opioid crisis is that it's disrupting regular habits and drug supply. For example, cash-strapped users may be taking unusually long breaks between taking opioids, which would lower their tolerance. This would also increase their risk for overdose.</p><p>Still, it's still too early to determine exactly how the pandemic is affecting the opioid crisis in the United States.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Nobody has hard data yet; they just don't," Patrick Trainor, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Philadelphia, told The New York Times.</p>
This could lead to new pain relievers that mute the sensation without increasing the risk of addiction.
Pain is the body’s way of protecting itself, and communicating to our conscious mind that something is terribly wrong. We all have varying sensitivity to it. Recent research has found that how sensitive or tolerant you are to pain depends on your genetic makeup. Today, 25 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. That’s about 11% of the population. This is moderate to severe pain occurring every day for three straight months.
A new report suggests Colorado's legalization of recreational marijuana might be reducing opioid deaths in the state.