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Drug Overdoses Rose During the Pandemic. Here’s What We Need to do to Help.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic captured the nation’s attention over the last year, the opioid epidemic continued to worsen. The loneliness of isolation and social distancing created a perfect storm for people who suffer from substance use disorder. Many were cut off from their in-person support outlets and sometimes access to important resources was temporarily suspended. Without these methods of addiction support, many were forced to manage recovery alone while others turned to substance use to cope with the effects of the virus, like job loss, stress, and loneliness.

Research shows more than 40% of Americans are now reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression, a significant jump from before the pandemic. Government data also shows more than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdoses from October 2019 to September 2020, making it the deadliest period of the opioid crisis since it began in the 1990s. Progression of the COVID-19 virus stalled progress being made against the opioid epidemic. It’s crucial that steps are taken immediately to get things back on track.

One of the most important considerations in the fight against the opioid epidemic is improving access to mental health treatment. As the rise in overdose deaths coincides with increased instances of mental health struggles, it’s important to realize how closely the two are related. When battling substance use disorder, treatment should focus on healing the whole person, meaning addressing their addiction and the mental and behavioral health conditions that go along with it. The factors that contribute to a person’s substance use disorder can be caused by a number of things including PTSD, anxiety, depression, trauma, grief or loss, and many other treatable issues. When a patient can have their medical, mental, and behavioral health needs addressed in one place, it makes for an easier, more seamless care experience. 

While addiction thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve not seen enough accommodations made to help those in recovery access the care they need. In-person treatment is crucial in the fight against addiction but telehealth options were an important resource during the pandemic and provided support that prevented many from being completely alone. It’s important these treatment options continue to supplement in-person care.

It’s crucial that measures expand access to necessary care continue beyond the pandemic to make progress toward overcoming the opioid crisis.

If you or a loved one is struggling during this time, CleanSlate is here for you. Visit www.cleanslatecenters.com to find a center near you or to learn about our telehealth options.

Picture of Claudie H. Jimenez, M.D., M.S.

Claudie H. Jimenez, M.D., M.S.

Dr. Claudie Jimenez is CleanSlate's Medical Director for the states of Indiana and Kentucky. CleanSlate is a leading national medical group that provides outpatient medication treatment for the chronic disease of addiction, primarily alcohol and opioid use disorders.

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