Another Source of a Public Health Crisis

Get addicted to drugs or free from addiction to medicine. Drug and narcotics abuse or after rehab concept. Addiction written with pills. Medicine spilling out from a bottle locked with open handcuffs.

We have been focused on COVID-19 for the past year and a half in our country. Going into COVID-19 we were extremely concerned as a nation about what we called the Opioid Crisis where thousands were suffering from addiction and deaths due to drug overdose.

As we entered the pandemic, we suspected that due to the stress and isolation of the impact of COVID-19 that this crisis would become even worse.  Additionally we began to be more concerned for those with mental health struggles.

Preliminary numbers indicate there were 93,331 reported deaths by overdose nationwide in 2020, the largest number ever recorded, a 29.4 percent increase over 2019. “This is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, and the largest increase since at least 1999,” stated Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.

In our own Commonwealth of Pennsylvania deaths increased by 16.4% as a result of the pandemic which totals approximately 5300 deaths due to overdose.

In total, the 93,000 deaths cost Americans about 3.5 million years of life, according to a Times analysis. By comparison, coronavirus deaths in 2020 were responsible for about 5.5 million years of life.

Opioid Crisis Word Cloud on Blue Background

Full data on 2020 overdose deaths can be found on the National Center for Health Statistics’ website.

As we have come to understand the impact of this increasing crisis it is clear that our work is yet to be done in solving this crisis. I know that a number of our drug and alcohol recovery programs have struggled through this pandemic while needing to expand their capacity to help those who are struggling with addictions.

Funding has been appropriated to assist with this problem. It is my hope that our political influencers will provide the needed funding and support for this American public health crisis that appears to be on the rise. This crisis has significant impact to families and communities in America and deserves the support that is needed to bring hope and healing to those who have experienced the devastation and losses of addictions.

Gerry Vassar


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