While law enforcement is restricting the supply of pharmaceutical opioids, forcing pain patients and drug users to use dangerous substitutes such as heroin and fentanyl, which lead to higher rates of fatal overdoses, millions of people in the United States continue to lack access to evidence-based addiction treatment and effective treatment options. Several data sources say that drug overdose deaths have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic because the pandemics have exacerbated the underlying cause of drug abuse. During that period, nearly 60 percent of participating counties reported an increase in drug overdoses.
According to the American Medical Association, at least 40 states reported an increase in opioid overdose deaths in March. The number of deaths reported for the period February to March 2020 rose by more than 5,000 from the same period last year to 72,500, the first time since February 2015, and by almost 10 percent from February to March 2020, “according to an analysis by the Drug Policy Alliance. Overdose deaths also rose 10 percent from a year earlier and have been rising steadily for nearly a decade. According to a report in the New York Times, the number of reported overdose deaths had steadily increased in 2014, 2015, and 2016 before stabilizing and rising again in 2016.
The media has focused on the role of isolation, loneliness, and quarantine in the increase in overdoses in local areas. However, these data show that illegal opioids such as heroin and fentanyl continue to fuel the crisis and underline the need for different approaches to reduce the harm caused by drug use.
However, drug policy reformers and health experts have highlighted structural factors that exacerbate COVID-19, including a lack of public awareness of the dangers of illicit drug use and its effects. Indeed, avoiding drug use alone, rather than overdo
sing opioid users – and reversing the drug naloxone – is a common tactic to prevent overdoses.
As Truthout reports, the Trump administration continues to wage a failed war on people who use drugs and has failed to improve the levels needed to reduce overdose deaths. By March, at least 40 states reported an increase in opioid overdose deaths. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, of the estimated 21.6 million teens and adults in the US who received treatment in 2019, only 2.6 percent received it.
That figure is an understatement because federal data often does not account for homeless and unstable people. The overdose crisis under COVID-19 also affects low-income people of color, because the war on drugs has fueled mass incarceration for decades. What we’re seeing are two different problems, which are mainly affecting the lower-income groups and those of the people of color, “she said in an interview.
The government has temporarily eased restrictions on access to methadone, buprenorphine, and telemedicine to accommodate patients during this pandemic, but advocates argue that these changes must be permanent. COVID-19 It exacerbates problems in dealing with the overdose crisis by making it harder to access services, she said. Holland said harm reduction strategies to reduce overdose deaths must include drug abuse treatment, including proven effective treatment of opioid addiction.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the government must go further and lift restrictions on pharmacists and doctors who offer life-saving drugs to reduce overdoses. Federal law enforcement agencies have acted as if they have a role in discouraging providers from effectively treating drug addicts, she said.
Methadone and buprenorphine are still unavailable in most prisons and prisons, and advocates are also calling for a court – an orderly rehabilitation for those whose drugs are not working. If people are arrested by the police and dragged into the criminal justice system, they are locked up for a long time, ultimately putting them at greater risk of overdose. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, incarceration also puts people at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. More than half of those recently released from prison have died of an opioid overdose, as have more than a third of those who have been in prison for less than two years, she said.
Getting methadone and buprenorphine into a correctional program is a “no brainer,” she said, but it is still unavailable in most prisons.
Meanwhile, ASAM reports that qualified doctors and healthcare professionals are providing evidence-based treatments. It would be much better to release people who do not need to be there, but we could provide them with the medicines that would help.
Although there is a social stigma surrounding people who use drugs and live with addiction, federal regulations and law enforcement also play a role in discouraging providers from effectively treating drug addicts. Medicaid has helped combat the opioid overdose crisis in states that have expanded Medicaid to cover low-income people. However, there has been a significant gap between the number of people who receive Medicaid and eligible. That gap is widening in several states that refuse to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, including Texas, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Doctors must obtain special federal exemption to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug that has been shown to treat opioid addiction. Federal law limits prescribing to no more than 100 patients at a time, but most doctors do not have a “buprenmorphine waiver” and can prescribe other opioids, such as painkillers.
As the availability of pharmaceutical opioids has declined, fentanyl overdoses have risen, as have the use of other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.
As a result, some may resort to illegal opioids like heroin and fentanyl, which are much more dangerous drugs and are the driving force behind the overdose epidemic. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has cracked down on prescription opioids, including opioids used to relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings. But the DEA has come under heavy fire for failing to control the pharmaceutical supply of opioids, and the narrative surrounding overprescribing of these painkillers has shaped public perceptions of the drug war and its impact on the opioid crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of fatal overdoses from prescription opioids has fallen, death rates from heroin or fentanyl continue to soar.