Epidemic Within A Pandemic: Drug Overdoses Soaring

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[otw_shortcode_dropcap label=”I” font=”Ultra” background_color_class=”otw-no-background” size=”large” border_color_class=”otw-no-border-color”][/otw_shortcode_dropcap]n the darkest depths of the brutal COVID-19 pandemic lies a harrowing epidemic: drug overdose. Psychologists have warned about the mental toll and repercussions that can result from a global pandemic, and that is being seen through the increased number of deaths due to overdoses. The Washington Post reports “suspected overdoses nationally jumped 18 percent in March, 29 percent in April and 42 percent in May, data from ambulance teams, hospitals, and police shows.”

One coroner in Columbus, Ohio is running out of spaces for the bodies, a place that received nine overdose deaths in only 36 hours. Roanoke Virginia police say they have responded to twice as many fatal overdoses in the past few months as they did in all of 2019. “Emerging evidence suggests that the continued isolation, economic devastation, and disruptions to the drug trade in recent months are fueling the surge” according to the Washington Post.

When the pandemic hit, authorities were hopeful it might equate to fewer overdoses because of closed borders and shutdowns. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening. “As traditional supply lines are disrupted, people who use drugs appear to be seeking out new suppliers and substances they are less familiar with” reports WaPo. The result is more overdoses and deaths because “synthetic drugs and less common substances are increasingly showing up in autopsies and toxicology reports, medical examiners say.”

WaPo states addiction is a disease of isolation. “It’s when you feel alone, stigmatized and hopeless that you are most vulnerable and at-risk,” said Robert Ashford, who runs a Philadelphia area recovery center and is a former addict. “So much of addition has nothing to do with the substance itself. It has to do with pain or distress or needs that aren’t being met” he said.

JoAnne Manzo lost her 33-year-old son to a drug overdose after he lost his job at the Michigan Irish pub he worked at due to shutdowns. Manzo said her son had been clean for eight years but depression from isolation killed him. “If he had still been working, he would have been able to fight that urge, because he was busy. He loved that job. He loved people,” she said.