Nationwide lockdowns have contributed to rising drug-related deaths and the ever-worsening opioid crisis in the United States, according to health officials.
Individuals battling opioid addiction have experienced increased stress due to isolation, according to health experts and data collected by The Wall Street Journal.
Overdoses rose 48 percent in the first month and a half of the lockdown in the country’s most populous county, Los Angeles County, compared to the same period last year.
“They’re indoors, they’re stressed, maybe they lost a job or a family member,” Gary Tsai, the Los Angeles County Health Department’s interim director of substance abuse prevention and control, told The Journal.
Roughly 13 percent of American adults surveyed in June said they had started or increased drug use, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
“I don’t think it would have been this high a number if Covid-19 hadn’t hit us,” Ohio’s Franklin County coroner Anahi Ortiz said, referring to increasing drug-related fatalities.
“We’re seeing a lot more relapses,” Ortiz said.
Franklin County, which surpassed its 2019 overdose death total in August, is just one of many counties nationwide that have seen significant upticks in overdoses.
Overall, suspected overdoses rose about 18 percent after states began mandating lockdowns in March compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to data from the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program.
“I feel like all the work we did reducing overdoses just got tossed out the window,” Jess Tilley, co-founder of the Massachusetts harm reduction group HRH413, said.
The opioid epidemic has ravaged the United States for years with about 900 Americans dying from opioid overdoses every week, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
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