It’s safe to say that no part of our lives has been left unaffected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Everything from work to school to shopping has been disrupted, leaving people scrambling to keep their lives on an even keel. Unfortunately, addiction to opioids has also become more severe during this pandemic, leading to a higher need than ever for quality treatment for opioid addiction.
Overdose Rates Rising Again
Over the last few years, experts have actually noted an overall slow in overdose deaths from opioids. Both 2017 and 2018 showed a slight decrease in overall overdoses. However, in 2019, the rates started to tick back up again (a situation attributed largely to illegally manufactured fentanyl). Whatever gains had been made thanks to improved treatments and intervention programs seem to have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic.
Opioid Deaths and COVID-19
Sadly, during the pandemic, we’re not just losing lives to the virus. We’re also losing lives to drug abuse. As COVID cases have risen, so have overdose fatalities. The American Medical Association claims, “More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder.”
The reasons behind the sudden, sharp uptick in fatal opioid overdoses are manifold:
- Lockdown-related isolation
- Separation from support groups
- Inability to cope with uncertainty and stress
- The ongoing rapid spread of that deadly synthetic fentanyl
- Financial barriers to treatment
If these trends were to continue, the CDC estimates the U.S. will suffer more than 75,500 drug-related deaths in 2020.
What Can We Do?
Sometimes when we hear big numbers associated with a national problem, we become overwhelmed, paralyzed at the thought of tackling a crisis so clearly beyond the scope of our abilities. Fortunately, though large-scale programs and group efforts are effective, people are generally helped best when they’re reached one by one.
Here are a few practical things you can do:
Educate Yourself on the Signs and Symptoms
If you don’t know what to look for, it may be easy to assume you don’t know anyone who struggles with addiction and shrug off the issue as someone else’s problem. That’s just not the case. The opioid crisis is a true public health emergency, and it’s going to take all of us working together to help solve it.
The stigma of addiction often carries shame. This dynamic leads people to hide their struggles, increasing their isolation, and separating them from the very support systems that could make a difference. Demonstrating to your friends and family members that you love and support them even in the face of their addiction goes a long way toward helping to effect positive change.
For many people, opioid addiction started with a prescription from an actual doctor. Individuals in this situation trusted that they were doing what was best for their ongoing health and never imagined themselves in this position. Exercising understanding and compassion will help you recognize how best to help them.
Because opioid addiction wreaks actual physical changes on the body over time, people trying to quit will undergo both physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms. These might include cravings, diarrhea, aches and pain, chills, nausea, vomiting, mood swings, and severe agitation. These symptoms can last from mere hours to days or even weeks. Because of the nature of withdrawal, going “cold turkey” just isn’t a viable option.
Fortunately, there is help available. If you’re fighting addiction, you’re not alone; and if you have a friend, loved one, or close connection who you suspect may be in need of help, you don’t have to take it all on yourself.
We Can Help
If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, don’t wait to reach out. Fairwinds Treatment Center is here to help those who are struggling with addiction to get their life back on track. Please contact us today.