The Overlap Between Coronavirus and the Opioid Epidemic

As COVID-19 still impacts our day-to-day lives, it has also had disastrous effects on the Opioid Crisis and those addicted to prescription opioids.

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The Opioid Epidemic is one of the most significant public health crises in American history. While the problem may be actually getting worse, another problem has arisen and taken the mantle as the most talked about health issue in the country: Coronavirus. 

The United States is one of the most affected countries when it comes to coronavirus and, unfortunately, it has led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Obviously, COVID-19 is a major issue that needs to be handled, but how has it affected the Opioid Crisis? 

Well, according to experts, it may have exacerbated the problem and caused a rise in opioid-related deaths. In fact, at least 30 states have reported a rise in opioid fatalities since the start of the pandemic.  

But how did this happen? 

Coronavirus has caused a lot of changes and problems, some of which includes uncertainty about the future, financial problems, grief, and anxiety. When people deal with issues like this, they often search for ways to cope and escape from these problems. This can lead to them turning to substance abuse to relieve stress, which can lead to opioid use disorder, a diagnostic term used to describe and addiction to opioids. 

When people begin to abuse these prescription medications it can lead to a cyclical problem. Opioid abuse will impact a person’s neurological functioning and alters the brain’s reward system which will promote continued drug use which can cause a person to build up a tolerance and an addiction. 

This is one of the many effects of opioid abuse, other effects include confusion, drowsiness, slowed breathing, GI bleeding, depression, and overdose. 

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, these problems, including overdoses seem to be on the rise. 

“Shelter in place orders have pushed people into isolation. And on the one hand, we’ve heard reports that being isolated or staying isolated may be helping to keep people who are in recovery away from their peers who are using drugs, but it’s also cutting them off from family or other critical support structures.” 

Megan Moncur, Associate Director for Opioid Policy at the FDA 

This isolation, unfortunately, leads to obvious problems when it comes to overdoses. If a person is abusing these drugs, they run the risk overdosing and dying because they are alone. 

Overdoses are always a worry for people who are abusing opioids and other substances. With that said, treatment options do exist to help people who are suffering from these problems. 

For those who are dealing with opioid addiction, one of the biggest obstacles in the way of treatment is the withdrawal problems that people need to confront before they can begin their actual opioid treatment program. 

Luckily, there are opioid detox programs in place to help patients get past this first step. Once detox has been completed and the patient is stabilized, they can start treatment. Opioid addiction treatment is often characterized by a mixture of psychotherapy, experiential therapy, and alternative treatment methods like exercise or mindfulness. 

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