As the pandemic closes in on its one-year mark, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the fatal damage of the coronavirus extends beyond the disease itself. Throughout the country, over 80,000 people have lost their lives due to opioid-involved overdose deaths — the largest number recorded in a single year.
While the opioid crisis has taken a back seat to COVID-19 in the minds of most Americans, Ohioans are dying at a devastating rate due to opioid addiction and overdose. Understanding why this is happening and what we can do to curb the growing tide is the only way to save the lives of this at-risk population in Ohio and beyond.
Why the Opioid Crisis Has Hit Ohio So Hard
For many years, Ohio has been among the states most impacted by the nation’s opioid crisis. Sadly, the stress and isolation caused by the pandemic have magnified this crisis. During the second quarter of 2020, Ohio’s opioid overdose deaths surged to 11.01 per 100,000 people. To understand why, here are some factors that may have contributed to the increasing number of opioid-related deaths.
Stress, Anxiety and Isolation
As the coronavirus began to spread and make its way to Ohio in early 2020, it stagnated and upended life in a way no one was prepared for. Vulnerable people became more vulnerable than ever. State-imposed lockdowns and diminished outside activities allowed stress, anxiety and isolation to run rampant. Many individuals sought out opioids as a means of coping with the emotional impact of the pandemic.
Disruption of Life-Saving Addiction Services
The pandemic caused many people who were already struggling with opioid addiction to lose the support systems and treatments they needed. From medication-assisted treatment at methadone clinics to counseling, these services are essential to help those in recovery remain sober and survive.
Prevalence of Illicit Fentanyl
Although COVID-19 has apparently accelerated the number of opioid-related deaths, this number was already on the rise before the pandemic. The increase has primarily been driven by the synthetic opioid fentanyl. In communities throughout Ohio where individuals are crushed by poverty and depression, fentanyl has become a popular street drug. This highly potent opioid can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine, putting users at high risk of overdose.
In 2019, illicit fentanyl accounted for 76% of Ohio’s overdose deaths, a number that increased by 20% since 2016.
Working Toward a Solution
In 2011, Ohio’s governor formed the Opiate Action Team, which aims to fight opiate addiction throughout the state on all fronts. While this initiative seemed to have some success combating the state’s opioid crisis, the coronavirus may have reversed or even worsened these problems.
Ohio is not without hope. The RecoveryOhio initiative continues to work diligently with the government, private industries, law enforcement, health care professionals, educational institutions and faith organizations to develop a solution. Awareness and advocacy of the crisis are necessary, as are early interventions and expanded use of the anti-overdose drug naloxone. Evidence-based treatment continues to be one of the most effective ways to combat opioid addiction.
Contact MedMark Treatment Centers in Ohio
If the people who need help do not have treatment opportunities nearby, they are less likely to receive these life-saving services. At MedMark Treatment Centers, we believe that opioid addiction treatment must be accessible and affordable. We’ve worked to keep our doors open during the pandemic, providing methadone treatment to at-risk populations in Ohio.
We have seven locations throughout the state, including clinics near bigger metro areas like Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Contact us to learn more about medication-assisted treatment and our Ohio opioid recovery services.