There is no doubt that COVID-19 has affected every individual in one way or another. This global pandemic has caused so many complications with every aspect of our lives. But one side effect not often talked about is that this global pandemic has led to a huge surge in the opioid epidemic.
“There is an opioid crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Adam Eid Ramsey, Alt-Resident Representative to the Board of Directors at the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, told the Los Angeles Tribune. “We are seeing an already challenging situation become more challenging”.
Social distancing, unemployment, and economic instability can cause increased isolation and anxiety which may trigger substance abuse. Over 40 states have shown increases in opioid-related mortality in 2020. More than 130 people die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses, according to the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration. And with so many experiencing trauma from COVID-19, more Americans are at risk for opioid abuse.
“There is a wave of new opioid users throughout the country,” Dr. Ramsey added. “We need to act quickly to reach those affected and help treat the increase of opioid addiction from COVID-19”. Below we share Dr. Ramsey’s recommendations for dealing with the opioid crisis during this pandemic.
Remove the Stigma
The first step to helping solve the opioid epidemic is to remove the stigma. If healthcare providers maintain a negative stigma around opioid use disorder it can prevent patients from seeking help. Addiction is a complex brain disorder and needs to be treated as such. More public education is needed to remove the stigma around opioid addiction and encourage people with addiction to seek help.
COVID-19 has introduced restrictions to in-person care. Virtual visits can help reduce the risk of COVID spread while still offering treatment. Telehealth can be a great tool to treat opioid substance abuse. Making virtual visits available can increase access to care for those affected by the opioid epidemic and help them get treatment at this critical time.
Ensure Access to Care
Telehealth is not an all-inclusive solution. Some people with addictions may not have access to a phone, internet connection, or private place for a confidential medical visit. That’s why it’s critical that opioid treatment programs remain open and available to patients during this time. Primary care physicians should offer medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, and ensure they remain informed about the current opioid epidemic’s effects and various treatments.
Seek Medical Help
If you or someone you know is affected by the opioid epidemic, seek medical help as soon as possible. And if someone is showing signs of an overdose, such as vomiting, stopped breathing, slowed heart rate, limp body, call 911 immediately. A professional can offer a much-needed help which includes medicines, counseling and support. Through treatment, most patients can overcome drug overdoses, get through withdrawals and cope with cravings.