COVID-19 Restrictions and the Rise in Fatal Overdoses
18 April, 2022
Addiction treatment facilities and those struggling with addiction have been affected in unimaginable ways due to COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing guidelines, with stay-at-home orders still in place in many states across the country.
The outbreak has also been accompanied by a significant rise in fatal overdose cases during the past year and a half.
The development and swift roll-out of vaccines may have slowed down the epidemic in some communities, but the virus, still very much at large, continues steadily on its path of destruction. While there may be ways to work around the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic on the country, it is essential to understand that there are therapeutic areas of care that require personal interactions to ensure the efficacy of the prescribed treatment.
Addiction recovery is one of these areas of care. According to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (US ODMAP), fatal drug overdose cases have spiked by nearly 18% since stay-at-home orders have been imposed. This represents a sharp increase of almost a fifth since the beginning of 2020, even before COVID-19 wreaked havoc across the United States.
Among all forms of addiction, the rise in fentanyl and opioid overdose fatalities is most concerning. The state of Washington, for example, has seen a staggering 133% rise in deaths caused by fentanyl overdose since COVID-19 restrictions were imposed in 2020. Heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine-related fatalities have also risen in the past year.
As the world slowly recovers from the disastrous effects of the pandemic in all spheres of life, more and more data related to substance abuse and how much it has increased due to COVID-19 is now being reported from different states across the country. This data can help highlight a serious problem that continues to affect thousands of people who are in desperate need of treatment and professional rehabilitation services.
A Troubling Trifecta
According to experts, the fatal overdose cases have shot up in part because of a troubling trifecta: deceased caregivers and service providers, decreased resources, and increased need. The healthcare sector has followed most businesses, organizations and facilities by migrating their operations to the virtual world.
Telehealth is a term used to describe professional medical services and consultation over phone calls, online chat assistance, and video meetings when needed. Many healthcare providers feel that multiple virtual platforms have made it easier to engage with patients and provide the necessary care. While many other sub-sectors of the healthcare industry may have successfully launched themselves virtually, addiction treatment may be suffering. This is due to the multifaceted nature of this particular treatment.
Drug & alcohol addiction treatment requires full, in-person engagement between the therapists, behavioral experts, support groups, and clients. There is only so much that an individual coping with drug or alcohol addiction can benefit from online group sessions and therapies.
Closure of Treatment Facilities
If isolation, social distancing, and the complete migration of most non-critical healthcare services to virtual platforms wasn’t enough — addiction treatment has suffered immensely due to the inevitable closure of hundreds of facilities nationwide.
Treatment providers are suffering financially due to pandemic-related restrictions that have had disastrous effects on their work. As COVID cases continue to rise and newer, stronger variants are discovered, the addiction treatment industry continues to suffer. With telehealth and telemedicine failing to control the ever-rising number of drug overdose fatalities, the problem is growing worse day by day. It is in dire need of an efficient solution.
Drawbacks of Telehealth in Addiction Treatment
Some of the most prominent drawbacks of attempting to implement telehealth services in addiction recovery include:
Complete dependency on internet and service availability. Many individuals suffering from addiction do not have access to these services.
Patient data security and safety concerns
Difficulty in establishing a relationship between patients and clinicians. This is something that often can only come from in-person treatments and support groups at times
Generational challenges. Older men and women who may need treatment may be unable to use the different virtual platforms through which telehealth is currently being made available. For the younger generation, using technology almost comes naturally. However, the older generation is struggling to learn something from scratch, which is an even more significant challenge for someone already suffering.
Limitations of physical wellness assessments
COVID-19 has significantly impacted those who are struggling with addiction. Fatal overdoses are on the rise, especially related to fentanyl and opioids. Unfortunately, much of this may have to do with treatment changes that have been implemented with stay-at-home orders. As businesses are moving online, so are some treatment centers. Access to care has become more challenging for some people, resulting in the continued abuse of drugs and alcohol.
At The Forge Recovery Center, we understand how much addiction treatment and rehabilitation services have suffered during the past year. Our team strives to go the extra mile to ensure you get the treatment you need, when and wherever you need it. Addiction can be lonely, scary, and often challenging to make sense of, but our experts are here to help you through every step of the journey.
For more information on our program and our COVID-19 safety measures, call us today.