How the pandemic helped fentanyl spread in the United States and pushed the number of deaths from opioid overdose to a new high


Yves came to this informative but frustrating article explaining the specific changes in the distribution of heroin and fentanyl caused by Covid, as well as how the reduction in treatment plans has pushed the number of overdose deaths to an already high level.

Author: Andrew Kolodnym, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at Brandeis University.Originally published on dialogue

For the past 20 years, I have been working to end the opioid epidemic as a Public health officials, researchers and clinicians. In each of these years, I have witnessed a record high in the number of deaths caused by drug overdose.

However, even if I know this trend, I am CDC’s latest statistics It shows that for the first time in history, the number of Americans taking fatal overdose in a year exceeded 100,000. During the 12-month period ending April 2021, Approximately 100,306 deaths in the U.S., An increase of 28.5% over the same period last year.

The more dangerous supply of opioids on the black market has exacerbated the surge in deaths. Illegally synthesized fentanyl-a powerful and cheap opioid that has been driving an increase in overdose since its introduction in 2014-is increasingly replacing heroin.Fentanyl and fentanyl analogs are Responsible for nearly two-thirds The number of overdose deaths recorded during the 12-month period ending April 2021.

It is especially sad that these deaths mainly occur in people suffering from opioid addiction diseases, which are both preventable and treatable. Most heroin users want to avoid fentanyl. But more and more cases are that the heroin they are looking for is mixed with fentanyl, or what they buy is just fentanyl, but no heroin is mixed.

Although the spread of fentanyl is the main reason for the surge in overdose deaths, the coronavirus pandemic has also made the crisis worse.

this Geographic distribution of opioid deaths Make it clear that changes occurred during the pandemic.

Before the COVID-19 health crisis, the number of overdose deaths related to fentanyl in the United States soared Mainly affects the eastern half of the United States, And urban areas such as Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City have been hit particularly hard. One possible reason behind this is that heroin is mainly available in powder form in the eastern half of the United States, rather than black tar heroin, which is more common in the West. It is easier to mix fentanyl with heroin powder.

COVID-19 has reduced cross-border traffic, which makes it harder Smuggling illegal drugs across borders. Border restrictions make It’s harder to move larger drugs, Resulting in increased dependence of smugglers on fentanyl-fentanyl is more effective, easier to transport in small batches, and easier to transport by mail. This may help the spread of fentanyl to avoid the early surge in fentanyl deaths.

Opioid addicts seeking prescription opioids instead of heroin are also affected because of counterfeit drugs made with fentanyl Become more common. This may explain why public health officials are Seattle and other places According to reports, many people died from the use of counterfeit drugs.

Another factor that may cause the death toll to soar is the pandemic People who rely on opioids are more difficult to receive on-site treatment.

Most importantly, the reason why opioid addicts continue to use it is that if there is no opioid, they will have severe withdrawal symptoms. Treatment, especially buprenorphine and methadone, must be readily available, otherwise addicts will continue to use heroin, prescription opioids or illegal fentanyl to avoid withdrawal.Some treatment centers have innovated when facing lockdowns, for example, allowing more patients Take methadone unattended at homeHowever, this may not be enough to offset the interruption of treatment services.

Maintaining access to treatment is essential to avoid recurrence, especially during a pandemic.Studies have shown that social isolation and pressure-this Become more common During the epidemic – Increase opportunities Someone who is recovering relapses.

In the past, for people recovering, a mistake may not be the end of the world. But given the dangerous supply of opioids on the black market, any mistake can lead to death.



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