The American Medical Association put out an article this week about the opioid epidemic. Just like other public health crises, opioid addiction seems to be on the backburner. Yet people who are addicted to opioids are more vulnerable to COVID-19.
In many places, both the COVID-19 crisis and the opioid epidemic are currently both causing casualties. In the state of Illinois, DuPage County has suffered 315 deaths so far this year from the novel coronavirus. But the agency also reports that there have been 303 overdoses reported in the Emergency Room this year.
Last year, 96 people overdosed on opioids. But the numbers are growing for 2020. For three weeks between April and May, the county experienced 22 fatal overdoses.
Fewer Resources For Addicted During COVID-19
Many of the people who overdosed in Dupage County were alone and practicing social isolation. They found that the people who overdosed had family problems, mental health issues, or a history of addiction. Isolation appeared to make things worse for the people who need help.
Richard Jorgensen, MD, the DuPage County coroner, said that it was time for medical and mental health providers to reach out to people who may be taking the isolation poorly. Many people in recovery are struggling, and some overdoses were due to relapse.
“They said we were echoing what they had seen, and they were seeing increasing problems with people they had treated relapsing or reaching out to their sponsors,” Jorgensen said.
“We need to reach out to the vulnerable in our society,” he said. “As physicians, we know which of our patients are having trouble, and we need to reach out to them.”
Doctors who participated in the AMA Brief recommend that lawmakers lower barriers to treatment and make it easier for physicians to prescribe Medication-Assisted Treatment.
12 Step Programs & Treatment Centers Still Open
Life has changed quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most 12-Step programs have moved online, but for many, it meant learning new technology and giving up physical contact usually exhibited during meetings. However, people who go to full-time inpatient treatment are forced to spend time in isolation.
While it’s not ideal, many are learning to adapt to the new technology and attend therapy, 12-step meetings, and other aspects of treatment from home on their computer or phone.
Most treatment centers not in hotspots continue to screen their residents and prioritize cleanliness. Many treatment centers ask newcomers to isolate for their first week or so. Many states have deficits and extreme wait times for people who want to get clean and sober. The medical professionals who wrote the study advocate for eliminating as many barriers as possible to save lives.