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Massachusetts Opioid Overdose Deaths Have Risen During COVID-19 Pandemic
Physical, phycological, and economic factors are causing significant damage among the addiction treatment community.
New data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) published in late November 2020 confirmed what many addiction treatment specialists had feared – an uptick in opioid-related overdose deaths after three straight years of declining fatalities.
According to the most recent data brief: “Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths among Massachusetts Residents”, the DPH estimates that there was a 2% increase in opioid-related overdose deaths from January 2020 through September 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019. Preliminary figures for the first three-quarters of 2020 estimate 1517 opioid-related overdose deaths, an increase of 33 people. This snaps a three-year trend that saw a 5% decrease in opioid-related overdose deaths that had provided some tempered optimism to public health experts.
The State of Massachusetts has increased some of its efforts to help quell the tide of opioid-related overdose deaths since the start of the Pandemic. In the spring, it issued more than 75,000 naloxone kits to community health centers. (Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose and quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of an opioid overdose. ) It has also authorized “take-home” doses of Methadone to keep patients from congregating near distribution centers. It is thought that these and other factors have kept the number of overdose deaths to only 2% when they may have been significantly higher.
The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Opioid Addiction in MA
The COVID-19 outbreak has had an enormous impact on addiction in Massachusetts, and public health experts are just now beginning to see some of the initial toll it has taken. The longer-term impact on opioid-related overdoses and medical conditions in the State has yet to be revealed.
While COVID-19 may not have directly diverted resources and funding away from addiction treatment here in MA, it has undoubtedly refocused some of the energy and efforts on it from a public health emergency standpoint.
David Ray, the Executive Director of Topsail Addiction Treatment in Andover, MA, has spoken out on the danger that the COVID-19 Pandemic – and the subsequent protocol designed to “flatten the curve” – have had on addiction treatment.
“Interruptions in the routine of a person in recovery are often problematic. The combination of social, economic, and systemic changes brought about by the COVID-19 Pandemic has added to the challenges that addicts face finding (and sticking to) treatment.”
According to Ray, quarantine has increased isolation, and many addicts are using opioids by themselves instead of with others. This means that if an overdose occurs, they don’t receive the help they may have otherwise from friends or family. Another challenge is the added responsibilities of having children at home. Because the child-care burden falls on the parents (mainly women), many have found it is harder to find time to go to treatment, counseling, and group meetings.
Simply accessing treatment has also become significantly more complicated with social distancing rules limiting capacity in many facilities, and there are very few treatment centers that will accept COVID-19 positive addicts.
Clinically speaking, COVID-19 could make addicts more vulnerable to complications of substance use. According to published reports in Psychology Research, “…Individuals with substance user disorders (SUD) are an at-risk population for contamination due to multiple factors—attributable to their clinical, psychological and psychosocial conditions.” Addicts are already at high risk for diabetes, hypertension, and immunosuppression, and these are some of the most common risk factors in COVID-related deaths.
One risk factor specifically, Chronic respiratory disease, has already been associated with increased overdose mortality due to opioids, because they depress breathing and COVID-19 is suspected to exacerbate the situation.
Fentanyl Present in More than 90% of Overdose Deaths
While not specifically COVID-19 related, this new research also revealed an interesting trend in the types of opioids found in overdose victims. In 2019, the synthetic opioid Fentanyl was present in the system of 93% of all opioid-related overdoses. Early indications for 2020 confirm this trend is continuing at a similar rate. Just five years ago, in 2014, that number was approximately 30%. The massive expansion of Fentanyl use among addicts has replaced heroine atop the most deadly drugs in the State.
Interestingly, there seems to be some positive data coming from this research. Even with this massive uptick in Fentanyl-related deaths, the overall rate of overdose deaths has remained relatively steady over the past four years. This means that while addicts are most likely substituting Fentanyl for heroine (knowingly or not), the number of deaths from opioid-related overdose is not following suit.
Finding Addiction Treatment In Massachusetts
If you or a loved one are finding the Pandemic to be a challenge to sobriety, don’t become another statistic. Topsail Addiction Treatment is the premier outpatient addiction treatment facility North of Boston and was created to help addicts overcome the grip of alcohol and drugs.
Topsail provides a unique outclient addiction program specifically for Fentanyl users. The program integrates a range of treatment, therapy, educational programming, and follow-up care in a variety of treatment settings. Each program customized to each individual’s needs and challenges.
We provide a safe and comfortable environment for addiction treatment and recovery from our offices in Andover, MA. Conveniently located near routes 95, 128, and 93, we serve communities of Greater Boston, Eastern Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire, and ALL of New England.
Taking the First Step
Topsail Addiction Treatment has developed recovery programs for a variety of addictions and offers three levels of outpatient addiction treatment programs: PHP, IOP and OP.
The goal of each of these programs is to equip you with the treatment, support, and tools to help you take back control of your life.
If you or someone you love is at risk and looking for an IOP, PHP or OP outpatient addiction treatment near Andover, MA, call Topsail today 978 475 0002 to find out how you can get started on the first step toward living a life of recovery.
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