Overdoses During the Pandemic

Here at Mitchell Medical PC, over the course of the pandemic, we have received more calls to action than ever. Periods of isolation and loneliness are the worst things for a person in recovery, and relapse rates have been higher than ever. According to the Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts this is the highest opioid epidemic since it began in the 1990s. With more drugs on the street being cut with fentanyl, from cocaine, to benzodiazepines like xanax, and opioids like heroin, the risk of fentanyl overdoses is at its highest peak. 

Our country is in crisis. 

According to an article in the New York Times, Overdose Deaths Have Surged During the Pandemic, C.D.C. Data Shows (well worth the read), the deaths from overdoses started rising again in the months leading up to the corona pandemic. The pandemic exacerbated the trend, and the consequence of this has been increased drug overdoses that have resulted in more deaths than ever. 

What is Fentanyl? 

The direct definition from the CDC is: Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain.

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges and can easily be diverted for misuse and abuse. However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl. 

Fentanyl is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product—with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects.

Deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl on the rise

Rates of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, increased over 16% from 2018 to 2019. Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids were nearly 12 times higher in 2019 than in 2013. More than 36,000 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids in 2019.

The latest provisional drug overdose death counts through May 2020 suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As the NYT article quotes Dr. Volkow, “Dealers are lacing these non-opioid drugs with cheaper, yet potent, opioids to make a larger profit,” she said. “Someone who’s addicted to a stimulant drug like cocaine or methamphetamine is not tolerant to opioids, which means they are going to be at high risk of overdose if they get a stimulant drug that’s laced with an opioid like fentanyl.”

With drugs bought on the street being laced more than ever with fentanyl, the risk of death and overdose is scarier than ever. 

What we are doing to help?

At Mitchell Medical PC, during the course of the pandemic, we have been fighting the opioid epidemic. Staying the course of sobriety in isolation and uncertain times is not an easy task, that’s why we make it a priority to consistently check in with our patients, help them with bumps along the way and prioritize their mental health and keep them on track with their appointments and medically assisted treatment.

There is no short answer on how to stop the drug epidemic, but as a small practice that is dedicated to each and every one of our patients, we put human connection first and foremost, making sure each patient has the support they need to combat this dangerous and sometimes lethal disease. If you or a loved one is in need of help to combat a substance use disorder: please do not hesitate, make an appointment below:

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