The Current Status of the Opioid Epidemic

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The Current Status of the Opioid Epidemic

Over the past year, the lives of Americans have gone through immense changes due to the COVID-19 virus and subsequent stay-at-home orders. Many people have been sheltering in place for months on end, abandoning their usual work and social schedules, left to their own devices at home to help the time go by. With preliminary data showing that more than 87k Americans died over the last 12 months, superseding death tolls from previous years since the 90s, it’s evident that those with substance use disorder are some of the most vulnerable people in regards to public health.

When did the Opioid Epidemic Begin?

The first wave of devastation from opioids began in the 90s, more than two decades ago, involving prescription opioids (synthetic and semi-synthetic), with a considerable rise in overdose deaths since at least 1999. The second big wave came around 2010, with rapidly increased heroin overdose deaths among the population.

Is this the Third Wave?

Using only the preliminary data given that reflects the past year through the pandemic, there was a substantial rise in opioid overdose deaths leading up to the coronavirus pandemic after the figure had slightly dropped in 2018 for the first time in decades. The biggest jump occurred in the spring of last year between April and May, when many people were losing their jobs and living in complete uncertainty of what was to come with the impending health crisis. While it’s too soon to correlate the two phenomena completely, there’s no question that the lockdowns and preventative measures in every city and town across America exacerbated the trend.

Most of the recent opioid overdose deaths can be attributed to fentanyl, an incredibly potent and insidious drug that has found its way into street drugs from coast to coast. While the opioid epidemic was previously associated mostly with white rural and suburban Americans, this potential third wave has affected black Americans disproportionately, as they are now part of the highest increase in opioid mortality. Additionally, researchers say that the rise in deaths may also be due to other non-opioid street drugs like amphetamines being laced with fentanyl due to its availability and low cost to illicit manufacturers.

Looking into the Future

As America begins to find some sense of “new normalcy” now that vaccinations roll out, attention needs to be focused on those who need help with substance use disorder. Experts agree that most of the increases in overdose deaths are due to more people misusing opioids alone, and more frequently due to isolation and many treatment clinics moving towards telehealth or shutting down completely to new patients.

BAART Programs offers addiction treatment for people ready to treat the disease comprehensively, with an individualized plan created by experienced and knowledgeable medical providers. Our compassionate and specialized staff is prepared to help patients through the treatment process, touching on the mental, physical, and emotional impacts of substance use disorder to ensure that every patient has the best possible chance at life-long recovery. Find a location near you and reach out today.



Medically Reviewed By:

Cris Villalon

Cris Villalon