(ConservativeStar.com) – Right now, it seems the only health crisis the media can see is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – but is a bigger problem getting lost in all the virus panic? Many health experts are worried that, in the shadows of the coronavirus, our drug overdose epidemic is quietly growing.
How Bad Is the Drug Crisis?
In mid-November, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that, in the year ending April, a record number of Americans died from drug overdoses – more than 100,000 people. That was almost 30% higher than the year before, and it was part of a trend that’s been going on for several years. Since 2015, annual overdose deaths in the US have more than doubled. It’s now a bigger cause of death than car crashes and shooting deaths combined.
The main driver of the rise in fatal overdoses is the spread of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. It’s at least 50 times stronger than heroin, making it popular with drug traffickers. A kilo of fentanyl makes for a lot more money than a kilo of heroin. The problem, fentanyl is lethal at a much lower dose than heroin. Fentanyl overdose is now the biggest cause of death in Americans aged from 18 to 45.
Why Is it Spiking?
The main reason fentanyl overdoses have been rising over the last five years is the supply has been increasing – traffickers are bringing in more of it because the profit margins are higher, and they often mix it with other drugs. Many people who overdose on fentanyl don’t even know they’ve taken it. But why the huge leap in 2020-21? The most likely answer is COVID-19.
Just 6 months into the pandemic, over 40 states were reporting sharp rises in opioid deaths. But it’s not the virus itself that’s causing overdoses; it’s our response to it.
Lockdowns, shelter at home orders, social distancing, call it what you like – it all comes down to forcing people to spend time alone, and give up most social activities. For people fighting a drug addiction, that’s a disaster, because it cuts them off from counseling, 12-step meetings, family and any other support networks they have. Predictably, many fall back into drug use, and when so much of the drug supply is contaminated with fentanyl, that’s more dangerous than it’s ever been. Worst of all, they’re often using drugs alone. That means, if they overdose, there’s nobody there to call for medical help.
The coronavirus has inflicted huge damage on the US, but the steps the government has taken in response are causing plenty of damage of their own. The surge in opioid use could be one of the most dangerous consequences, because it’s a lot easier to keep drug use down than to reduce it once it’s climbed. The pandemic is going to leave America with an opioid hangover that could linger for decades.
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