Health Experts: Opioid Addiction Has Worsened During COVID-19 Crisis
COVID-19 is hitting hard some of nation’s most vulnerable people, particular those with substance disorders.
New research is confirming this: People with substance use disorder — especially involving opioids or tobacco — are at a significantly higher risk for contracting COVID-19.
What’s more, they also are more likely to develop a serious case of the virus and die, a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health has found, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“The most severe association comes for opioid use disorder specifically,” Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute for Drug Abuse and one of the study authors, told the Inquirer.
“If you have an opioid use disorder, even after adjusting for compounding factors like ethnicity, age and gender, you are 10 times more likely [to contract COVID]. With tobacco, you are eight times more likely,” she said.
Overdose deaths are up across the nation since the coronavirus shutdown.
According Erin S. Calipari, Ph.D., a Vanderbilt University assistant professor, the most concerning fact about the addiction crisis is that it will remain a permanent fixture - long after COVID-19 has subsided.
Calipari wrote in the Tennessean: “If we take the time now to see how characteristics of these equally deadly epidemics meet and diverge, we have the chance to solve not just one, but two public health crises.
“Like COVID-19, there is no ‘magic bullet’ to prevent or treat addiction, forcing us to instead rely solely on prevention. As we have been reckoning with the deadly effects of the pandemic, addiction has already taken a huge economic and human toll on the nation, disproportionately affecting already marginalized populations.”
What’s fueling the rise in COVID-19 related addiction and overdoses?
“I think that one of the advantages and disadvantages of (COVID-19 shutdown) isolation and being in the home is that people were able to hide some of this… now they can’t,” Dr. Marvin Seppala, Chief Medical Officer at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, told Fox 9 in Minnesota.
Dr. Seppala said he’s seeing an uptick in people struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, the news station reported.
Job loss and uncertainty are among the stressors fueling depression and anxiety, while taking a toll on mental health and families.
Dr. Seppala told Fox 9: “People are reluctant to seek treatment in the first place, so what we’re seeing is they’re getting remarkably worse before they do start to look into treatment.”
The pandemic is also putting sobriety at risk.
“If you’re really struggling, consider getting an evaluation, and with that, a plan from an expert on addiction on what to do,” Dr. Seppala told Fox 9.