Federal and local officials are reporting a surge in overdoses across the United States, suggesting that the ongoing isolation, financial hardships, and disruptions to the drug trade due to the coronavirus pandemic are contributing factors.
According to data obtained by The Washington Post, overdoses are not merely increasing during the pandemic but accelerating as states teeter on whether to proceed with their reopening plans.
Suspected overdoses, including those that do not result in fatality, jumped 18% in March, 29% in April, and 42% in May, according to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program.
Due to the restrictions imposed by states to curb the spread of the virus, traditional supply lines for drugs have been disrupted. Those who use drugs are forced to find new suppliers and substances that are unfamiliar to them, increasing the risk of overdose.
"It's when you feel alone, stigmatized, and hopeless that you are most vulnerable and at risk," said Robert Ashford, who runs a recovery center in Philadelphia.
Social distancing and continued isolation have left many people to take drugs alone, preventing others from calling for help or administering the lifesaving overdose antidote naloxone. The pandemic has also closed several treatment centers, drug courts, and recovery programs.
"So much of addiction has nothing to do with the substance itself. It has to do with pain or distress or needs that aren't being met," Ashford said.