Overdose Surge Mirrors Coronavirus Pandemic

Experts say addiction triggers compounded by stay-at-home orders and disruption of support networks are just two contributing factors for a surge in overdoses

NBCUniversal, Inc.

As coronavirus cases climb in the United States, so are overdoses.

While the Centers for Disease Control reports drug deaths fell in 2018 for the first time in more than two decades, they rose again in 2019 and health experts are seeing alarm increases this year, many possibly tied to the pandemic.

In Wisconsin, overdose deaths have more than doubled during the pandemic, one Kentucky county is struggling with a surge in cases tied to a new synthetic drug mix, and in Jacksonville, Florida overdose calls are up 40%.

One foundation is offering virtual training on how to use emergency medication.

The Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, or ODMAP, tracks fatal and non-fatal overdoses.

Since mid-March, more than 60% of participating counties have reported increases.

"Once we saw that, we said 'Okay, what happened during this time frame other than COVID?' and that was stay-at-home orders," said ODMAP's Aliese Alter.

Health experts say those orders brought along triggers for relapse: isolation, job losses and support network reductions.

The pandemic also altered supply chains, leading some to seek new suppliers or substances.

A recent American Medical Association report reveals opioid prescriptions are actually down, while drug deaths are up.

"Most overdoses now are related to illicit manufactured fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine," said the AMA's Dr. Patrice Harris.

The AMA is urging government officials to relax barriers to treatment.

"We are asking every state to look inward, look at any policies and procedures that may be negatively impacting the ability of folks who have a substance abuse problem to get the care they need," said Harris.

ODMAP's most recent numbers for June show a 43% increase from last year to this year in overdoses in participating counties.

Read the CDC's latest report here.

Contact Us