The pandemic, government overreach, job loss, stress, and everything else has exacerbated the opioid epidemic, substance abuse, and mental health problems across the nation. Drug-related overdose, whether fatal or not, has been on the rise. During 2018, the country was finally starting to see a decrease in the number of drug-related overdose deaths. However, by 2019 the numbers began to increase. According to the Centers for Disease Control, drug overdose deaths in the United States rose 4.6% in 2019 to 70,980—approximately 50,042 of these deaths involved opioids. The pandemic and the excessive government intervention contributed to the increasing trend of drug-related overdose seen now in 2020.
It has been a struggle for anyone battling addiction and the millions of Americans in recovery from addiction. Countless Americans experienced triggers, such as family or job-related stress that lead to relapse and substance abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control, during late June of 2020, 40% of adults in the nation reported struggling with mental health or substance use. Also, 13% of adults started or increased substance use, while 11% seriously considered suicide. Moreover, more than 25% of Americans aged 18 to 24 have seriously considered killing themselves, per a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released by the CDC.
The Overdose Data Mapping Application Program published a report in May of 2020, showing an 11.4% increase in fatal overdoses. The Washington Post reported overdoses jumped 18% in March, 29% in April, and 42% in May, per information taken from ambulance teams, hospitals and police. Even the crisis lines and suicide hotlines across the country have reported drastic increases in the number of people reaching out because of substance abuse and relapse.
These issues are not going away, and the problem has become progressively worse. Substance use treatment providers have struggled to keep up with the increased demand in people needing help. Many treatment providers have closed their doors, reduced services, or been forced to utilize more telehealth services. Overall, it has been a struggle for anyone in recovery and those individuals struggling with addiction.
Many parts of the economy have begun to bounce back—Americans are going back to work, despite on-going restrictions from local government officials. However, the road for those requiring addiction treatment is still bumpy. The virus has, unfortunately, made it difficult for those struggling to find the help they need. Community programs, non-profit organizations, and state-funded services have been working hard for the past six months. The goal is to ensure people have access to substance abuse treatment and other mental health services, especially during the last few months of the year.
Long after all this is over, people will still face the challenge of substance abuse, and Americans will continue to die because of overdose. However, as long as there are still programs and people willing to dedicate the time and resources, drug overdose is preventable. Drug-related overdose is prevented through early intervention, drug treatment, and offering more preventable resources to families and addicts. The country can go back to a declining trend again like in 2018, but it is not going to be an easy road to travel, and it may continue to get worse before it gets better.