How COVID-19 has impacted the opioid epidemic

Health

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed the opioid epidemic, which has gotten far worse over the past year.

The CDC reported 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in the 12 months ending in May of 2020. That was the highest number of deaths ever recorded in a 12 month period.

Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, have been the primary reason for the increasing deaths. Local experts in the field of substance use disorders point to social isolation for the rise in overdoses.

“I work in the hospital so I tend to see the people who are worst off,” said Dr. Ari Kriegsman, a Physician & Substance Use Disorder Specialist at Mercy Medical Center. “Those who are admitted with injection drug-related infections, or who waited a really long time to seek care because they are active in their drug use. So I see this every single day.”

Dr. Kriegsman told 22News many people have lost support systems they had prior to the pandemic. Massachusetts had a decline in overdoses in the few years before the pandemic, but they’ve gone drastically up, and that’s been the case across the country.

Dr. Kriegman says phone calls or video chats can both go a long way in helping people struggling with drug addiction.

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