New research released by Well Being Trust and the Robert Center for Policy Studies and Family Medicine and Primary Care predicts 75,000 additional deaths caused by alcohol and drug misuse and suicide during the pandemic.
Per the new research, more Americans could lose their lives to deaths of despair, deaths due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide. Well Being Trust states that deaths of despair have been on the rise for the last decade. Deaths of despair are suicide, drug and alcohol poisoning, and or alcoholic liver disease. As much of the economy begins to re-open within the United States, there is still a great deal of uncertainty for many Americans. The report attempts to predict what deaths of despair might be seen based on some assumptions during the pandemic. These assumptions are economic recovery and the relationship between deaths of despair and unemployment.
The baseline for this study was information gathered from deaths of despair in 2018. It then projected the levels of unemployment from 2020 to 2029 and estimated the additional annual number of deaths based on economic modeling. Nine different scenarios played out, and the quickest recovery and the smallest impact of unemployment resulted in over 27,000 added deaths. The slowest recovery and most significant impact of unemployment on deaths of despair resulted in over 154,000 added deaths. About 75,000 deaths were the most likely scenario.
“This is an interesting research study because there has been little modeling done about how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact substance use trends and deaths related to drug or alcohol abuse,” said Marcel Gemme, owner of Drug Rehab Services. “More than 67,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2018, and modeling like this does paint a harsh reality for what could happen if more is not done to help.”
Along with this modeling, the new research suggests policy solutions to improve the effects of unemployment, increasing access to care, and how to integrate care best. Unemployment is a risk factor for substance misuse and suicide, along with a decrease in overall health. “Access to treatment is essential for people during this time,” said Marcel, “proper rehabilitation is the only way that a drug or alcohol addiction is overcome.”
Substance use treatment professionals and experts have been warning about the increased risk of suicides, drug overdose deaths, and substance use disorders as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In a report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, suicide rates have been rising in the United States over the last two decades. Economic stress, social isolation, and decreased access to community and religious support are among some of the current contributing factors.