Overdose Deaths Reached Record High as the Pandemic Spread

“A lot of people die without knowing what they are eating,” she added.

People with addictions and those in recovery are prone to relapse. The pandemic’s initial shutdown and subsequent strain on social networks, combined with an increase in mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, have helped create a health disruption.

So too, has drug use disorder treatment deferred, as health care providers across the country struggled to deal with massive numbers of coronavirus patients and postponed other services.

Dr. Joseph Lee, President and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, said the community and social support lost during the pandemic, along with school closures, contributed to the increase in overdose deaths. “We see a lot of people who have delayed getting help, and they seem to be getting sick more often,” Dr. Lee said.

The vast majority of these deaths, about 70 percent, were among men between the ages of 25 and 54. And while the opioid crisis has been described as primarily affecting white Americans, an increasing number of black Americans have also been affected.

There were regional differences in death numbers, with the largest annual increases – over 50 percent – in California, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky. The death toll in Vermont was small, but increased by 85 percent during the reporting period.

Increases of about 40 percent or more were seen in Washington state, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Alaska, Nebraska, Virginia and the Carolinas. The number of deaths has actually decreased in New Hampshire, New Jersey and South Dakota.

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