The COVID-19 pandemic has been linked to increased drug overdoses across the United States. In fact, early data suggests that the number of overdose deaths in 2020 was higher than any previous year on record. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 92,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the US between May 2019 and May 2020. The CDC notes that although there was a rising trend in overdose deaths before the onset of the pandemic, the latest numbers show an increase in overdose deaths during the pandemic.

The COVID Pandemic and Opioid Epidemic

The overdose epidemic is a national public health crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has led to widespread outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C, and numbers of deaths.

Overdose deaths from opioids have quadrupled since 1999, and in 2019 alone, over 49,000 people died from an opioid overdose. Synthetic opioids, particularly illicitly manufactured fentanyl, are responsible for the majority of these deaths.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. In 2020, more than 56,000 overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids (other than methadone). This number accounted for 82% of all opioid deaths in that year.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the problem, as social distancing measures and lockdowns have led to increased drug use and overdoses. The pandemic also devastated the US economy, resulting in job losses and financial insecurity. This has led to increased stress and anxiety.

But overdose deaths aren't just limited to opioid use alone. The CDC notes that preliminary data shows increases in overdoses involving stimulants, such as methamphetamine and cocaine. In the 12 months ending in May 2020, there was a significant increase in the number of overdose deaths involving stimulants.

Drivers of Overdose Deaths during the Pandemic

Overdose deaths increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, there were nearly 92,000 overdose deaths involving illicit drugs and prescription opioids. This rise in overdoses is driven by several factors, including:

Increased Stress and Anxiety

Experts believe that the stress and anxiety of the pandemic have a big role in overdose deaths. Many people who struggle with substance abuse use drugs as a way to cope with difficult emotions and situations. The added stress of the pandemic can be overwhelming for someone who is already struggling, leading them to use more drugs than usual. 

Lack of Access to Care

The pandemic has resulted in a decrease in access to treatment and recovery services. With fewer resources available, many people are unable to get the help they need. This can lead to a decline in sobriety and an increase in drug use.

Social Isolation and Loneliness of the Pandemic

The social isolation and loneliness caused by the pandemic can also lead to an increase in drug use. People who struggle with substance abuse often use drugs as a way to cope with negative emotions. The isolation of the pandemic can trigger these emotions, leading to an increase in drug use.

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Poor Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a profound impact on mental health. The CDC reports that adults aged 18-24 experienced the largest increase in mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, during the pandemic. Mental health problems can lead to increased drug use and overdoses.

Disruption in the Supply of Illicit Drugs

The pandemic has also resulted in a disruption in the supply of illicit drugs. The closure of borders and decrease in international travel has made it difficult for drug dealers to get their hands on illicit drugs. This has led to more dangerous substances being sold on the street.

Street drugs can be extremely dangerous for people who use illicit drugs, as it increases the risk of overdose. The disruption of the supply of illicit drugs also increased the price of drugs, which pushed some to cheaper alternatives, which could be more potent.

Racial Disparities in Overdose Deaths

The coronavirus pandemic has also exacerbated racial disparities in drug overdoses. While the number of overdose deaths has increased, the increase has been highest among Black people. In 2020, there was a 44% overdose death rate among black people and 39% for Alaska Native and American Indians. White people had 22%.

The increase in deaths is largely driven by illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Blacks were more likely to die from an overdose involving fentanyl. 

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What can be Done to Prevent Overdose Deaths?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, overdose deaths have been on the rise in the United States for the past two decades. But the numbers increased sharply during the pandemic. The opioid epidemic has had a devastating effect on families and communities across the country, and it is clear that something needs to be done to prevent further tragedy. Here are some things that can be done to prevent overdose deaths:

·      One way to reduce the number of overdose deaths is to increase access to treatment for substance abuse disorders. This includes everything from prevention and early intervention programs to specialized treatment facilities.

·      Additionally, it is important to increase access to naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone is available without a prescription in many states, and it can be administered by family members or bystanders.

By increasing access to treatment and naloxone, we can start to turn the tide on the opioid epidemic and prevent more lives from being lost to overdose.

Get Help for Addiction Treatment

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the lives of people struggling with addiction. Any ground gained in harm reduction for drug addiction in the last few years was overwhelmed by COVID-19. The isolation and loneliness of the pandemic, as well as the disruption in the supply of illicit drugs, have led to an increase in drug use and overdoses. Racial disparities in overdose deaths have also been exacerbated by the pandemic.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, it is important to get help as soon as possible. Addiction treatment can save lives.

Have you ever wondered why people use more drugs during the holidays than any other time of the year? Well, as it turns out, holidays can be a mixed bag of emotions. Although people look forward to the season, it is not uncommon for loneliness, grief, financial strain, family conflict, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to creep in. Many overindulge during the holidays, not just because of the countless opportunities for using substances, but rather the need for extra comfort because of heightened stress.

The fact is that holidays aren’t holidays for those who find themselves burdened with other additional obligations and tasks while their everyday lives must go on as usual. So they tend to be more vulnerable and so inclined to succumb to drug use because stress sources multiply. This, at least, may be one reason why people use more drugs during holidays. But there are more reasons, as you will notice in this article.

Using drugs during the holidays

A holiday season isn’t entirely to blame for drug use issues, but it contributes, of course. It’s the time of year when people are more inclined to participate in different social events where drugs and alcohol are the glue that holds everything together.

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Alcohol is sometimes the focal point of holiday celebrations.

Again, many people base expectations about holidays on unrealistic displays of healthy, affluent families from TV ads and shows. But this only fuels anxiety during the holiday season. When someone tries to live up to what they see on TV, yet it is not realistic, they may become anxious and try to numb their feelings with drugs.

Seasonal pressures arise from various sources, including financial obligations, increased demands on time and energy, and even final exam and grade reports. There’s usually a ton of extra demands. People want to do it right, so they end up becoming exhausted.

Seasonal affective disorder or winter depression is also pretty common around this time of year. SAD is a type of depression linked to low-light conditions that occur during long, dark winter months.

Here are the reasons why people use more drugs during the holidays:

Family problems tied to using drugs

Holidays evoke images of family bliss: loved ones gathering around a fireplace, lots of music and dancing, gift exchanges and catching up, etc. But for many, this dreamy image is usually nothing more than that – a dream.

For some people, a holiday is a time of loneliness because they live far from family or have lost their loved ones. For this group, holidays can be a time of sad memories and additional stress because it reminds them of relationships they don’t have. Some may turn to drugs and alcohol to blow off some steam or disconnect with the world.

The same applies to people who dread holidays because of family drama and strained relationships. The thought of a perfect holiday gathering can make a normal social tension unbearable.

Financial stress

Lack of finances is a common reason for seasonal sadness. One survey by the American Addiction Centers revealed that finances and gift-giving were the leading cause of holiday stress. An average person spends about $750 on gifts. And this figure can go even higher for those with more children, friends, co-workers and so on.

While gifting may not seem like a problem, it can be a major depressor among those who are strained financially. The effects of this stress can be detrimental on many levels and may lead to an increase in drug use during the holiday seasons. Studies show a strong connection between substance abuse and depression. For some, this stress becomes too much to bear and many with deep mental health issues can succumb to suicide.

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Stress around the holidays can come from a variety of sources. Loneliness, anxiety, financial worries can all lead a person to using drugs or alcohol to cope with their pain.

Holiday anxiety

Large gatherings, tense family relationships, and all the preparations can be overwhelming to some people. This is because of the constant worry that something might go wrong or that people will judge. Social anxiety is also pretty common around holidays, considering many events involving groups of peers, friends, and families. People with anxiety issues turn to drugs to help lessen the anxiety – though this only worsens the situation.

A study by the American Psychological Association and Greenberg Research tried to find out those who suffered from elevated stress levels during holidays, and the findings were surprising. Of the respondents in the study:

A sad, anxious, stressed, or angry person might lose sleep and be unable to focus on the celebrations and events happening around them. And as it turns out, these mental disorders often travel in the company or drug abuse. Drugs may help one feel less inhibited and more comfortable in social settings. But anxiety robs one the ability to know when enough is enough, or that drugs in any amount can be dangerous, or that they need therapy and treatment and not drugs for their disorder.

Personality

Impulsivity, a personality trait, is a risk factor for substance misuse. Those who are struggling with addiction assign higher values to immediate values than the delayed ones. And with lots of events, parties, and the general craze going on, the impulsivity only tends to heighten during holidays.  

Nostalgia

Nostalgia, a sentimental yearning or longing for the past, is a big part of the holiday season. Like birthdays and anniversaries, holidays trigger nostalgia because they act as temporary landmarks. Nostalgic depression is a holiday syndrome and may be accompanied by feelings of bitterness, helplessness, anxiety, and depression. It is common among loners with a history of family disruption.

Nostalgia is beneficial as it helps people cope with boredom, grief, and loneliness. It also strengthens social connectedness and reinforces a sense of identity. But to some extent, nostalgia can be toxic. Toxic nostalgia is especially harmful to recovering addicts, as it can make them believe that the time they spend using drugs is worth returning to. It may also make them forget all about the negative impacts and stresses of addiction that made them quit in the first place.

Seasonal binge-drinking

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Traditions can be hard to break. For many, drinking to excess has been a normal part of their holiday experience, for most of their lives.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that people indulge in seasonal binge-drinking during the holiday season. In fact, the Distilled Spirits Council of the US says that a quarter of the $49 billion-a-year profits in the distilled spirits industry come from late November through to New Year. So whether it’s peer pressure or excitement or the desire to unwind, people – including the moderate drug or alcohol users – tend to increase their consumption rates. Moderation is rarely taken seriously during holidays – with many believing that they’ll compensate for all their bad consumption in January. So, they keep overindulging in drugs, alcohol, and even food.

When all these things come together, one is likely to experience symptoms like:

Unfortunately, these symptoms can have far-reaching effects, especially for those with no support systems. In addition to using drugs, the symptoms can increase the risk of suicide, personal injury, violence, and relapse. That is why it’s essential for those who experience such symptoms to get professional help. It also helps to have friends to talk to whenever sad memories or feelings of loneliness come up.

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