Drug Overdoses Spiked During The Pandemic. What's Fueling The Surge?
The U.S. was already experiencing its deadliest drug overdose epidemic pre-pandemic. Now, exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, evidence suggests the overdose death toll is on track to reach an all-time high.
Drug overdoses were linked to more than 81,000 deaths in the U.S. between June 2019 and May 2020, per data from the Centers for Disease Control, with synthetic opioids primarily to blame. Nationally, suspected overdoses jumped 18% in March, 29% in April and 42% in May of 2020.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission says 1 in 5 Texans has experienced an opioid overdose or know someone who has.
According to The Washington Post, "evidence suggests that the continued isolation of lockdowns, as well as the economic devastation of the pandemic and disruptions to the drug trade" have fueled the surge nationwide.
How has the pandemic affected substance use and abuse? Why are more people overdosing and what's leading to the increase in drug-related fatalities?
Are certain kinds of drugs more likely to cause an overdose? Are some people more at risk for than others?
What's being done to address the root causes of this crisis? What are the biggest challenges? What policy changes could help end this epidemic?
What treatment options are available for individuals with substance use disorder? What should you do in the event of a suspected drug overdose?
How can friends and family help a loved one struggling with drug abuse during this difficult time?
- Dr. Kim Sue, MD, Ph.D., addiction physician-anthropologist at Yale University and medical director for the National Harm Reduction Coalition
- Jennifer Potter, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychiatry and vice dean for research at the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio
- Lucas Hill, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCACP, clinical assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy, director of the Pharmacy Addictions Research & Medicine (PhARM) Program, and co-founder and director of Operation Naloxone at the University of Texas at Austin
- Kasey Strey, ACPS, director of Texas Targeted Opioid Response at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission
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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, January 14.