While COVID-19 continues to present a major public health crisis in the United States, some public health leaders are worried about the opioid addiction epidemic. Earlier this month, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Nora Volkow, warned of a troubling rise in overdoses. She told WMBR:
“We know that from reports of overdoses, these may have increased 30% [to] 40%. We know also that from some of the reports from the states that there have been increases in overdose fatalities, that there have been increases in patients relapsing that had already achieved recovery. So we are hearing these distress calls from throughout the country.”
With millions of Americans out of work filing for unemployment each week and constant fear of contracting a deadly virus, many people are drinking more and using more drugs. A similar pattern emerged during the financial crisis 12 years ago. When society is a state of despair, more people engage in unhealthy ways of coping.
An untold number of individuals are disconnected from their support networks. Those in addiction recovery must be vigilant in protecting their programs. Heroin and fentanyl are still a severe problem across the country. A relapse can result in an overdose, and Dr. Volkow warns:
“The fact that we’re very isolated now, if someone is taking opioids and they overdose, the probability that someone sees them and can give them naloxone, which is necessary to reverse the overdoses, is much less likely.”
What’s more, doctors continue to prescribe copious amounts of potentially deadly opioid painkillers, despite guidelines.
NPR conducted an analysis and found that Americans are still prescribed more than twice the volume of opioids considered normal before overprescribing became the status quo after 1995. Moreover, doctors hand out enough opioid prescriptions each year for half of the population to receive one.
“We’re 5% of the world’s population, but we consume 80% of the world’s prescription opioids,” Dr. Jonathan Chen, a physician and researcher at Stanford University Medical Center who studies prescribing patterns, tells NPR. “It’s not just a handful of doctors doing it. We kind of all are. It’s become part of our culture that this is normal.”
The road to heroin and black-market fentanyl use begins, more often than not, with addiction to pain medications. Doctors are fully aware of the dangers attached to opioids, but they still rely on them as the first choice in treating pain. Scientists, government officials, and front-line medical workers say that adhering to life-saving prescribing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been lacking at best.
The CDC reported earlier this year that many doctors ignore federal guidelines frequently; large quantities of potent opioids still find their way into medicine cabinets across the country. When patients do not use prescription opioids, they are often given away or stolen by friends or family members.
“It’s possible some clinicians just simply aren’t aware of existing evidence-based recommendations,” said Christina Mikosz, a CDC lead researcher studying opioid prescribing. “The other possibility is that they are aware and they just choose not to follow them.”
Opioid Addiction Treatment
Pacific Shores Recovery invites men and women struggling with an opioid use disorder to reach out for help. Addiction treatment and sober living can get you on the road to long-term recovery. Our team relies on evidence-based therapies to help clients achieve successful outcomes. Please contact our team today to learn more about our program.