With everyone’s attention in the U.S. fully turned for the past year and a half toward the pandemic and vaccines and what one can and cannot do, there is one issue that once was in the spotlight as well as the hearts and minds of legislators and public health agencies that has completely fallen off the radar. I’m talking about the opioid epidemic.
With this thought front and center, I was not surprised to come across an article at Harvard.edu, in which Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health talked about why 2020 is likely to be the deadliest year on record for opioid overdoses. He echoes my own thoughts when he says, “The pandemic is in many ways a perfect storm for anyone who is struggling with substance use disorder. People have lost their jobs. Social and family interactions have been limited. And the pandemic itself is depressing and anxiety provoking. These are all stimuli that can stress the psyche and the finances of someone who has an addiction. In some cases, it could push a person who was getting their addiction under control back toward substance use. In other cases, the pandemic might be the trigger that actually makes someone consider initiating drug use, which could end up becoming an addiction and being harmful.” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/a-crisis-on-top-of-a-crisis-covid-19-and-the-opioid-epidemic/
We were making such good headway and had momentum building on the opioid crisis prior to COVID-19. Now, all the attention that has been taken away has many who have been focused on the opioid crisis feeling like we have to start from ground zero again. We have to remind people about the devastation being caused by opioids and convince them about the toll opioids are taking on millions of lives. The pandemic has increased anxiety in everyone. Mental health issues lead people to experiment with drugs to ease the tension. We must refocus our attention as healthcare providers on this deadly epidemic. Let me remind you in no uncertain terms that the death toll is rising every day.