RHINELANDER – COVID-19 joined a crowded field of American public health crises. The unprecedented stress, changes, and uncertainty appear to be making those other problems worse. Especially when it comes to overdoses.
The CDC released new data showing 2019 had an uptick in overdose fatalities. About half of those were due to opioids.
Dr. Paul Christo, Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins University and host of “Aches and Gains”, says the opioid pandemic has changed over the years, “It moved from prescription opioids to heroin and then to illicitly manufactured opioids like fentanyl.”
Opioids aren’t the only problem.
“We have meth that’s pretty high usage right now in addition to opioids,” says Behavioral Health Administrator Donna Shimeck, “So whatever drug they make cheapest is the one that becomes the most used and abused.”
COVID-19 shut down in-person therapies. Fortunately, state authorities moved quickly to enable telehealth options. Still, isolation and disconnect are serious threats for overdoses.
“We’ve seen, unfortunately, that COVID-19 has led to a lot of isolation and loneliness and that’s the opposite of what you need for those who have the disease of addiction,” says Dr. Christo.
Treating addiction requires more than just treating the individual. It’s about improving the environment too, connecting people and building support.
“I think we need to make sure we’re reaching out to our neighbors, to the people in our community, to make sure they have the support they need to be able to handle their addiction, to handle their isolation, to handle their mental health,” says Shimeck.