The coronavirus pandemic is making yet another serious problem even worse: the opioid epidemic. Fatal drug overdose deaths are up in 35 states and are continuing to rise as the weeks go on.
The severity of this situation was noted by the CDC’s recent release of overdose data revealing that drug overdose deaths set record highs in 2019 — rising by 4.8% to a total of 70,980 deaths. A jaw-dropping 50,042 of those deaths were due to opioids.
The takeaway here is that despite all of our collective efforts, the opioid epidemic has been getting worse. And now during COVID-19 it’s not just growing – it’s surging – taking thousands of lives away. Why is this happening?
The social distancing measures that have been adopted world-wide during COVID-19 have made it more difficult for people to maintain their mental health, especially people who are in recovery. Isolation from society can trigger feelings of loneliness, stress, depression, and anxiety.
Social distancing may challenge sobriety due to:
- Unstructured time
- Cancellation of in-person recovery meetings
- Anxiety or inability to visit a doctor’s office, which may cause people to (attempt to) self-medicate
- Loss of contact with peers and advocates
- Uncertainty about the future
Work Related Stress
Work related stress can take a serious toll on many aspects of a person’s life, such as their health and wellbeing, relationships and families, as well as the future of his/her career. The current working trends of job loss, reduction in hours, working from home, which have all been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can lead to uncertainty. Responses to such stressors may include self-medication, which may lead to new addictions. These work-life stressors may cause a recovery addict to even relapse.
Inaccessibility of Treatment
Because of the ongoing pandemic, some treatment centers have been closed because of social distancing measures or financial difficulties. Many people feel unsafe leaving their homes, even to seek health care and treatment. As people lose their jobs with the economic downturn, they also lose their access to insurance — making addiction treatment less accessible. In addition, building a connection and trust with a therapist, social worker, sponsor, or peer is simply much harder to do virtually than in person.
If you or someone you know is in recovery, reach out with a phone call, text or email to let him or her know you are there. Model good coping behaviors yourself. Share the COVID-19 hotline number (888-535-6136) and remember to press “8” for free emotional support counseling.