The Drug Helpline lists 28 states at high risk for a spike in overdose fatalities.
The National Drug Helpline has flagged 28 states for increased risk of overdose deaths due to opioids and other drugs. The states at highest risk, according to the official report, are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) CEO David Sampson explained, “The impact that COVID-19 has had on the opioid addiction crisis in the U.S. has been staggering. “For those battling addiction, quarantine and social distancing have resulted in disruptions of treatment and recovery services and limited access to mental health services and peer support. Additionally, interrupted routines, loss of work, housing and prolonged stress.”
“Drug overdose deaths in the U.S. rose 4.6% in 2019 to 70,980, including 50,042 involving opioids,” according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What’s more, Sampson said, “Many U.S. states are now reporting a significant rise in drug fatalities for 2020 as COVID-19 has created new obstacles contributing to increased opioid use, abuse and risk of relapse for those in recovery.”
The Drug Helpline cited just a few of the factors contributing to rising overdose fatalities, including, “Reduced access to treatment programs, including emergency departments; Reduced access to social support systems such as Narcotics Anonymous; Reduced access to harm reduction programs like syringe/needle exchange programs; Lost healthcare capacities due to staff falling sick; Increased social and economic stress; (and) Increased risk of suicide, particularly in individuals addicted to opioids.” Officials warn that using opioids while infected with the virus can heighten the probability of death.
The report indicates “opioid drugs affect respiratory health by slowing breathing and leading to a harmful decrease in oxygen levels. As a result, individuals with opioid addiction often have diminished lung capacity. Chronic respiratory disease is a known risk of higher overdose mortality in opioid addicts. If an opioid-addicted individual were to contract the coronavirus, the resultant diminishment in lung capacity from COVID-19 can potentially increase their risk of death from an opioid overdose.”
The helpline is advocating for harm reduction strategies which have already been implemented in several states. Ohio, New Jersey and Washington clinics are currently providing doorstep or curbside delivery of buprenorphine and methadone, according to officials. Those in Wisconsin, Washington, and New Hampshire have increased the use of telehealth and made use of mobile methadone units. Michigan has is providing naloxone (Narcan) to community groups to prevent opioid overdoses. Pennsylvania has issued 6,000 doses of opioid overdose reversal drugs to its jails.
“Yes, it’s personal and yes, it’s emotional, but it also impacts business,” said Suzanne Clark, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It impacts entire communities. It impacts your workforce. It impacts the economy. And, so, they’re reasons for business leaders to be at the table and to be part of the solution.”
James Carroll, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, added, “The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, but it has especially affected those in or seeking treatment and long-term recovery. We know that many are unable to access medication, counseling, recovery support services or mutual aid and response. This administration has mobilized the entire federal government to confront this problem.”