by Susan Kim, AmeriCorps VISTA at RxSafeMarin.

The Covid-19 pandemic is projected to be the largest mass casualty event in U.S. history but before coronavirus, a different epidemic—the opioid crisis—was killing 130 Americans every day. From 1999 to 2018, there were 446,032 opioid overdose deaths in the United States.

Data indicates that Covid-19 disproportionately affect socially marginalized persons like people with an opioid use disorder (OUD). There is grave concern that Covid-19 will increase opioid overdose death rates especially since persons with OUD are at higher risk for Covid-19 because of respiratory disorders caused by opioid use. Learn more at RxSafeMarin.org

 Besides the fragile state of the stock market, US officials are worried about the state of opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment and medically assisted treatment (MAT) accessibility. It is too early for definitive statements about how Covid-19 has impacted OUD treatment, initial indications point to treatment and recovery initiatives taking big hits. It has taken several decades of difficult work to get the overdose deaths from opioids down 4% in 2018, the first decrease in overdose deaths in 3 decades. This decrease is a good first step in ending our county’s opioid epidemic, but social distancing and unemployment have created a situation in which treatment is largely inaccessible, especially in the states where the epidemic has hit the hardest. While Marin’s own SPAHR Center has committed to continuing service during the outbreak, many other states and counties across the nation are not so fortunate. It is likely that we will see a surge in opioid-related deaths and hospitalizations should this crisis continue at its current pace. Read the full article HERE.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people who use opioids at high doses medically or who have OUD face separate challenges to their respiratory health. Since opioids act in the brainstem to slow breathing, their use not only puts the user at risk of life-threatening or fatal overdose, it may also cause a harmful decrease in oxygen in the blood (hypoxemia). Lack of oxygen can be especially damaging to the brain; while brain cells can withstand short periods of low oxygen, they can suffer damage when this state persists. Chronic respiratory disease is already known to increase overdose mortality risk among people taking opioids, and thus diminished lung capacity from COVID-19 could similarly endanger this population. Read more at NIDA COVID-19: Potential Implications for Individuals with Substance Use Disorders   

In a Politico.com article, President Trump’s top experts warned the coronavirus pandemic may derail the progress made fighting the opioid crisis. That progress is in jeopardy as social distancing rules and fears of the virus hamper OUD treatment efforts, including syringe exchange programs, peer counseling and medication-assisted treatment.

 

Click here to read the entire article:  Trump officials, health experts worry coronavirus will set back opioid fight   

Follow the links below for a deeper exploration of the how Covid-19 may affect Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) treatment: