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Opioid overdosing affected by COVID-19

Where does addiction begin, and how are people coping during the pandemic? Opioid overdoses have been rising during our experience with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Already at risk because of the isolation of addiction, the despair and economic hardships, the virus made all of those things worse.

The University of Baltimore Center for Drug Policy and Enforcement administrates ODMAP (Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program) which, they say, evaluates and analyzes overdose data reported from across the United States and reports back to alert public health and safety partners with drug overdose trends. In comparing the data from before the stay-at-home orders associated with COVID-19 and after, overdose events have increased. The coronavirus pandemic isn’t over and neither is the opioid overdose epidemic.

“The United States still holds the dubious distinction of being the lowest ranked nation in life expectancy among developed nations due to the opioid epidemic,” write Marcelina Jasmine Silva, DO and Zakary Kelly, MBA in “The Escalation of the Opioid Epidemic due to COVID-19 and Resulting Lessons About Treatment Alternatives. The article appears in the June issue of American Journal of Managed Care.

Add to that, “…the medical community has recently had to compromise some former CDC standards on risk assessment behaviors via forgoing tools such as random urine drug sampling and in-patient screening for opioid misuse by shifting to telemedicine to comply with social distancing measures.”

Barbara Andraka-Christou, University of Southern Florida, and assistant professor of the health management and informatics department, authored the book, The Opioid Fix: America’s Addiction Crisis and the Solution They Don’t Want You to Have,(Johns Hopkins Press, 2020). She says that 115 or more Americans die daily from opioid overdoses. “Addiction is a chronic medical condition,” she said.

She supports medical -assisted treatment which is not without controversy. Buprenorphine (Suboxone) and methadone are opioid drugs but the author cites that they are the best available prevention of opioid overdose and relapse.

While she agrees that the first time a person uses an illicit drug is by choice, after that, most likely it is not a choice. She also cites adverse childhood experiences as directly related to the development of alcohol and/or drug addiction. The things that happen in childhood can affect their choices when they are older.

How can persons with addiction beat the COVID-19 isolation game? It is suggested that “emotional resilience building, stress reduction techniques, health education, group treatment when it’s safe to do so, access to treatments like buprenorphine,” good health and physical activity are all good places to start.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org. Family Recovery Center is funded in part by Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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