By Nickolaus Hayes
Preliminary data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated the number of fatal drug overdoses hit a record high last year, reversing the progress made in 2018. In 2016, for example, more than 100 people were dying every day because of an opioid-related overdose, and over 11 million people misused prescription opioids, per Drug Rehab Services. The data released by the CDC show that within 50 states and the District of Columbia, overdose deaths are occurring in everyone at different degrees of severity. The number of Americans who died from a drug-related overdose surged to over 70,000 in 2017. However, by 2018 the number declined by 4.6%, which was the first decrease in almost 30 years.
The progress made in 2018 was erased in 2019, and the number of overdose deaths increased by the same number, 4.6%, from 2018 to 2019. Approximately 37 states and the District of Columbia reported an increase in drug-related overdose deaths in 2019. The state of South Dakota reported the biggest increase at 54%. In 2018, more than half of the overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The CDC also indicated that the number of overdose deaths involving cocaine and methamphetamine increased from 34.7% in 2017 to 45.4% in 2019. Fentanyl was responsible for most of these overdose deaths, which included fentanyl mixed with cocaine.
Overall, the data suggest that 2020 could be worse because of the pandemic, government restrictions, self-isolation, stay at home orders, job loss, and financial struggle. Even data that was released by the White House was suggesting that America already saw an increase in the number of drug-related overdose deaths in 2020. If the trend continues and it seems that it is, 2020 will be the sharpest increase in annual overdose deaths since 2016.
There are countless reasons why people choose to abuse drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, many Americans are feeling more despair, anxiety, stress, and other issues caused by the pandemic and the on-going civil unrest. It has been a collision of two significant issues involving the stress of uncertainty with the pandemic and the uncertainty of your future, whether with work, school, or future goals. Social isolation has been devastating, and it made it more difficult for people with substance use disorders to manage their conditions, and it increased the likelihood of overdose.
It was a domino effect because, at the beginning of the pandemic, many of the outpatient and inpatient treatment facilities had to suspend their in-person services, which limited access to care. Countless residential programs shut their doors and left addicts with nowhere to go. The year has been unbelievable, and it seems almost impossible to predict what will happen next. Behind everything, opioids continue to destroy families and rip communities apart. For example, the Shelby County Health Department in Tennessee reported 391 suspected overdoses from April 7, 2020, to May 7, 2020 — 58 of which were fatal.
The Franklin County Coroner in Ohio reported the first four months of 2020 showed 50% more deaths than in the same period of 2019. Milwaukee County’s Emergency Medical Services Division in Wisconsin reported March and April 2020 displayed a 54% increase in drug overdose calls when compared to 2019.
The numbers for 2020 are showing these problems are going to persist, and it will result in more funding to help treatment centers survive. However, there have been past trends with funding and support being reduced and allocated elsewhere.
Between 2009 and 2013, some states during those fiscal years cut at least $4.35 billion from their budgets for mental and behavioral health services. As of 2020, some states are already reducing their funding for mental and behavioral health services due to economic losses because of the pandemic. The state of Oregon, for example, is preparing to cut $69 million in 2021, and other states like Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, and Utah made similar cuts. The most vulnerable in the country has been made even more vulnerable. By the end of 2020, there will be more people addicted to drugs and more people who have suffered from a fatal or non-fatal drug overdose. The need for substance abuse treatment will increase, and countless programs are funded at the state and federal level, which could make it difficult to help those in need if there is no funding.
Nickolaus Hayes is a healthcare professional in the field of substance abuse and addiction recovery. He utilizes his experience in his writing to provide an expert viewpoint. His primary focus is spreading awareness by educating individuals on the topics surrounding substance abuse.