The Opioid Crisis During COVID-19

Opioid Crisis Word Cloud on Blue Background

Prior to the break-out of COVID-19 we were extremely concerned with a crisis in the use, overdoses and deaths due to opioids. It was a major source of conversation and concern.  Here at Lakeside we even put together a training video on this issue showing how trauma and opioid addictions are very interconnected.

Once COVID-19 active began to spread we were overwhelmed with all that was going on and the addictions concerns became diminished. Yet, as expected opioid use increased during the pandemic and our addictions rehabilitation programs have been overwhelmed during this pandemic. 

The Commonwealth Fund recently published a blog post identifying the research that drug overdoses spiked during the pandemic and are reviewing recommendations for changes that will help this significant problem in America.

Here are some excerpts from this blog and the link to this research:

Since COVID-19 first started upending day-to-day life for Americans in March 2020, public health officials have been sounding the alarm about a potential surge in drug overdoses.

Overdose deaths rose during the second half of 2019, and experts feared the pandemic would produce conditions that would further increase overdoses and deaths: economic shock, social isolation and increased mental health distress, and disrupted access to addiction support and medications that require face-to-face visits.

Interim reports from government agencies and researchers have suggested these fears were being realized, with provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now further supporting these claims…..

Addicted to drugs or free from addiction to medicine. Addiction written with pills. Medicine spilling out from a bottle locked with open handcuffs.

Our estimates show that total overdose deaths spiked to record levels in March 2020 after the pandemic hit. Monthly deaths grew by about 50 percent between February and May to more than 9,000; they were likely still around 8,000 in August. Prior to 2020, U.S. monthly overdose deaths had never risen above 6,300.

Not only has the use increased but many of the providers who typically provide services to those who have been addicted to drugs have struggled with funding, staff losses and maintaining their organizational stability. With more individuals involved with drugs and less services available the crisis has gotten worse.

Hopefully some of the Rescue Funds will become available for this issue. Also, we need to continue to aggressively address this issue and provide to our students in our therapeutic schools at Lakeside. We have so much work to do as we re-engage students in this year to come. It is important to recognize that the opioids crisis has not taken a sabbatical during COVID-19 but has grown in scope and impact. This Commonwealth Fund blog presents that data and helps us understand that we have a lot of work to do to help those who have been addicted to opioids. We cannot forget that we must continue to be vigilant about this crisis in our country!

Gerry Vassar


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