Overdose Epidemic Quietly Rages as COVID-19 Pandemic Continues to Surge

drugs and needle

Jurisdictions nationwide are seeing spikes in overdoses and factors related to COVID-19 isolation, economic devestation, and disrupted drug trade are suspected as contributing to the spike. 

According to federal data March, April, and May of 2020 respectively saw 18, 29, and 42 percent increases in overdose deaths nationwide compared to the same months last year. As COVID-19 continues to surge experts worry we will likewise continue to see an increase in overdoses and need for substance use disorder treatment that may further strain our already “underfunded and inadequate” treatment system.

The Washington Post reports on the factors suspected of contributing to the increase in overdose deaths:

As traditional supply lines are disrupted, people who use drugs appear to be seeking out new suppliers and substances they are less familiar with, increasing the risk of overdose and death. Synthetic drugs and less common substances are increasingly showing up in autopsies and toxicology reports, medical examiners say.

Social distancing has also sequestered people, leaving them to take drugs alone and making it less likely that someone else will be there to call 911 or to administer the lifesaving overdose antidote naloxone, also known as Narcan.

Making matters worse, many treatment centers, drug courts and recovery programs have been forced to close or significantly scale back during shutdowns. With plunging revenue for services and little financial relief from the government, some now teeter on the brink of financial collapse.


For more information:

‘Cries for help’: Drug overdoses are soaring during the coronavirus pandemic (The Washington Post)