Drugs

Is COVID-19 Causing a New Wave of Opioid-Related Deaths?  

As of March 2020, combined fatal and nonfatal drug overdoses were nearly 20 percent higher than through the same month in 2019.

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One consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be a spike in drug overdose rates.

The Washington Post reports that as of March 2020, combined fatal and nonfatal drug overdoses were nearly 20 percent higher than through the same month in 2019, according to data collected by the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program. The New York Times, which collected data directly from state and local health agencies, reported in July that fatal drug overdoses were up 13 percent compared to the first half of last year.

Physicians and harm reduction advocates say COVID-19 has disrupted medical care for substance use disorders and imposed financial crunches on treatment centers and local health agencies. Medical examiners interviewed by the Post pointed to an increase in synthetic drugs on toxicology reports.

But this COVID-19 story is really a prohibition story. While 2020's numbers, if they keep up, would likely be the worst ever, the U.S. also set a record for overdose deaths last year, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in July. "The increase in the last few months of 2019 was steep enough to push it over the top by a little more than 200 deaths," a CDC official told Politico.

With border and port traffic reduced, drugs like heroin and cocaine, which are generally shipped in large quantities, may be harder to move into the United States right now. But synthetic drugs that are far more potent, and thus more profitable to ship in small quantities, have been a major factor in overdose deaths for years. In 2018, the CDC says that synthetic opioids such as fentanyl were involved in 68 percent of overdose deaths, an increase of 10 percent over 2017.

To the federal government's credit, COVID-19 has led to a few long overdue policy changes. In March, for example, the Drug Enforcement Administration relaxed restrictions on the prescribing of the medication-assisted therapy drugs methadone and buprenorphine, which people with opioid addiction can safely take to satisfy cravings. Doctors can now start a new patient on buprenorphine through telemedicine rather than an in-person visit, and continue an existing patient's methadone protocol through telemedicine.

There are other methods for harm reduction—even short of legalizing recreational opioid sales—such as authorizing more clean needle exchanges, passing more robust "Good Samaritan" laws to protect people who call 911 during an overdose, and allowing the construction of supervised injection facilities. Given the scale of the crisis, these potentially life-saving reforms are needed now more than ever.

 

NEXT: Brickbat: I Can't Breathe

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  1. You mean locking people up at home for months causes more drug and alcohol abuse? Who saw this coming?

    1. People are staying home because they don’t want to get sick, not because the Government is telling them to. Stop with this disingenuous bullshit, people are dying from this disease but nobody’s even going to jail or being incarcerated by this supposedly oppressive, eeeeeeeeeeevil Government even briefly for not wearing a mask so just shut the fuck up

      1. “not because the Government is telling them to”

        California thinks you’re an idiot and everyone else agrees.

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        2. The Reason comment boards in microcosm:
          Liberal leaning article misses the main point.
          Parody account emphatically agrees.
          Second parody account calls first parody account an idiot.
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          1. And the spammer account makes more sense than the previous two.

        3. fuck. Dallas County thinks he’s an idiot and everyone else agrees.

        4. Beyond government, it’s also the media that whipped up a frenzied panic about a virus that isn’t really that scary. They were aided by Cuomo’s final solution to the nursing home problem.

      2. Your a big man behind a computer. People losing their jobs, businesses whipped out. Yeah, no damage at all.

      3. See the next article — Brickbat: I Can’t Breathe. Then you can rewrite your comment.

      4. You chud up!

      5. I’m staying home because I lost my job, have no income, can’t breathe with a mask on, and most things are still closed in my state. I’m not scared of contracting the virus, which is unlikely to make me sick.

        Fewer than 10,000 people died “of” COVID. 150,000 people die everyday.

        You sound like a scared twat.

      6. Let your most irrational fears be your guide. Lock yourself and your cats in the basement and seal up all the doors and windows with duct tape. Just leave the fentanyl upstairs, mkay?

        1. and then the suffocation death from making the basement airtight will be blamed on COVID-19.

      7. Quit trying to out-Tony Tony.

      8. I never stayed home out of fear of getting sick, I stayed home because the dictator of New Jersey closed just about everything, including libraries. (The irrational fear here is so great that even books that are returned to the library are put under quarantine for three days before being allowed to recirculate.) This month, we finally have indoor dining again, but at just 25% of the restaurant’s capacity.

      9. If people are staying home “because they don’t want to get sick, not because the Government is telling them to” then explain why the government finds the need to issue lockdowns and mask mandates? Your logic makes no sense.

        1. I am staying home because I’m in a very high risk group. I’m stuck here because the people who aren’t high risk refuse to live normally (without masks and other measures). The population should consist of the recovered (anti-bodies) and the robust (t-cells) by now.

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    3. Suicides up, drug overdoses up, divorce up, jobs lost. But if it saves ONE LIFE, then it’s worth it.

      1. Millions of businesses dead.

        1. Corporations aren’t people, Jesse. We’ve been told this.

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  3. Don’t worry they aren’t going to be classified as drug overdose deaths. It will be listed as pandemic or cop caused.

    1. “Excess deaths” due to COVID-19.

  4. OD deaths are up? We must add these to the COVID death toll!

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  7. These are lockdown deaths. Like bad policy deaths of putting covid patients into nursing homes and onto ventilators, these deaths WE CAN ACTUALLY PREVENT by stopping the lockdowns.

    Lockdowns are killing people but half the country doesn’t care because they think lockdowns are the key to beating Trump.

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  9. COVID-19 isn’t causing homicides and opioid deaths to spike, the COVID-19 lockdowns are.

    1. That’s what all those peaceful protests are really about.

    2. Yeah, seriously. Stop talking about it as if this is all the inevitable consequence of an epidemic.

  10. who is this Covid guy and what bureaucracy does he run?

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  14. Now we need to see statistics on how much deaths from stress-related problems, suicides, domestic violence, child abuse, and other things are up. Or are they being misclassified as “coronavirus” deaths?

  15. In terms of health consequences how does Flu compare to Covid-19?
    In terms of economic costs how do responses to Flu compare to responses to Covid-19?
    In terms of social costs/mental health how do responses to Flu compare to responses to Covid-19?
    https://perkurowski.blogspot.com/2020/03/financial-escape-valves-in-times-of.html

  16. Americans overdosing on drugs eh…what a shock…every doctor prescribes you some kind of silly pill…and Big pharma, amazingly, is allowed to advertise their stupid poison pills. Only country in the world by the way that can do that.

    1. New Zealand allows drug advertising as well. I dont think its a good idea though

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