The United States isn’t a stranger to deadly epidemics. For over twenty years, public health officials have waged a protracted war against the opioid addiction epidemic. Opioid use disorder (OUD) has cut hundreds of thousands of lives short; millions of Americans are currently in the grips of OUD and are in desperate need of addiction recovery.
As you well know, our local, state, and federal public health agencies are stretched thin because of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. As such, it’s unlikely that health officials have the resources to combat two epidemics simultaneously.
The deadly coronavirus is commonly referred to as COVID-19; ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. The 19 corresponds to the year it was discovered. If you’ve been following the news reports while sheltering in place, then you know that the coronavirus has hit America harder than any other country.
Today’s reports indicate that 672,303 Americans have confirmed cases and 33,898 of our citizens are no longer with us. It must be pointed out that the exact number of people who have COVID-19 is probably significantly higher than what the reports indicate, as is the death toll. Testing is limited, people can be asymptomatic, and there has been a shortage of autopsies. Some Americans are dying from SARS-CoV-2, and it’s not being reported.
Limited Testing Demands Continued Preventive Measures
Only people who exhibit symptoms are eligible for a test because of the limited number of available tests. On April 16th, only 3.2 million (about 1 percent of the population) Americans had been tested, according to The Atlantic. Nearly one in five people who get tested for the COVID-19 in the United States are positive; Tracking Project reports that is a “test-positivity rate” of nearly 20 percent. Jason Andrews, an infectious-disease professor at Stanford, says that number is “very high.”
The reality laid out above is alarming and is cause for all of us to continue taking preventative measures. Even though prolonging the practice of social distancing and sheltering in place is taking a toll on us all, we must keep heeding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Along with wearing face masks in public, following CDC recommendations is the only way to stop the spread of the disease until the advent of a vaccine.
Unfortunately, it’s challenging for average citizens to acquire a medical grade face mask like the N95; those available need to be in the hands of medical workers who are on the frontlines. The good news is that making an effective mask is relatively easy with a few essential ingredients. Matthew McConaughey, AKA “Bobby Bandito,” explains how:
If you are having trouble watching, please click here.
Refocusing On Opioid Addiction Recovery
Over the last two decades we’ve witnessed a staggering rise in overdose deaths mostly involving the use of opioid narcotics. Opioid addiction remains a real public health threat that has been overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s vital that we do not lose sight of the crisis and continue to provide and expand access to addiction recovery services.
The day will come when the coronavirus is contained, but addiction will continue to plague millions of Americans. We have written on many occasions about the steps taken to curb opioid use disorder rates and reduce the annual death toll related to prescription opioids and heroin. The passing of multiple pieces of legislation to expand access to addiction treatment and the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone has paid off.
In 2018, the number of overdose deaths in America fell by 4 percent from the previous year, Politico reports. Experts considered the reduction as an inflection point. The decrease is almost certainly due to the actions we mentioned above. However, there is reason to believe that we could see a rise in 2020 because the nation’s public health experts are primarily focused on the pandemic.
We must turn our eyes back to the American addiction epidemic related to opioids and other deadly substances. Experts must take steps to ensure people can access addiction recovery services. Moreover, those struggling with substance use disorders need to be made aware that addiction treatment centers are still operating; they are an “essential service” if the strictest sense of the words.
I think we’re going to see deaths climb again,” Nora Volkow, the long-serving director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “We can’t afford to focus solely on COVID. We need to multitask.”
Tackling the Opioid Epidemic During a Pandemic
Yesterday, a group of mental health and addiction recovery advocates spoke with White House officials, including the president, according to the article. The experts cautioned that without nearly $50 billion in emergency funds, progress made with the opioid epidemic could be lost. They said that with new support, we could prevent backsliding on the ground we’ve made regarding the shortage of providers and stigma. The funds will ensure that people can access lifesaving addiction recovery services.
Some of you will remember that the “great recession” of 2008 contributed a dramatic rise in opioid use and overdose deaths. Economic woes often lead people to cope in unhealthy ways. Given that 22 million Americans lost their jobs in the last month, history suggests we will see a similar trend to what happened 12 years ago.
There is already evidence that many Americans are using drugs and alcohol to cope with the pandemic. Last week, the market research firm Nielsen reported that alcohol sales surged 55 percent in the first week “stay at home” orders.
Hard liquor sales increased by 75 percent compared to the same time last year. It’s fair to say that a similar trend is occurring regarding opioid use. Sheila Vakharia, a deputy director at the Drug Policy Alliance, said:
We had that little blip, 4 percent or 5 percent decrease [in overdose deaths] and there were way too many headlines celebrating. That tenuous plateau people hoped we were seeing is not going to hold.”
Opioid Addiction Recovery Treatment for Men
Individuals struggling with alcohol or substance use disorders during these challenging times can still take steps toward a life in addiction recovery. At PACE Recovery Center, we continue to treat adult males living with addiction and mental health disorders. Our clients’ safety is our chief priority; we continue to adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines from the CDC strictly. Please contact us today to discuss treatment options.