The opioid epidemic is still a crisis, even during a pandemic

When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic gripped our country, many aspects of life just stopped. Schools were closed/ Movies, concerts, and vacations were cancelled. Many people found themselves out of work or furloughed. Others found themselves stressed about working an essential job that required them to risk exposure to the virus that was increasing in numbers on a daily basis. Many found themselves with nowhere to go.

While the world was focused on the pandemic, the focus on the opioid epidemic in our country shifted. Over the past couple of years, it was rare to go more than a few days without seeing an article about the opioid epidemic. When COVID-19 hit, stories of opioid use seemed to disappear from the daily news feeds. A pandemic does not replace an epidemic and for those struggling with the use of opioids, early reports seem to show that the pandemic may have made their struggles worse. For those with opioid use disorders, their troubles did not stop.

Recent news headlines across the country show that the opioid epidemic has not improved since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Medical Association posted a report that highlights opioid troubles in 30 states across our country. These headlines highlight spikes in opioid overdoses and increases in the use of the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone.

The headlines make it clear – while most of us continue to navigate the uncertainty of COVID-19, many of us will have to continue to navigate the uncertainty of opioid addiction. If you find yourself struggling with the use of opioids, seek help by talking to your doctor or calling the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). These are just some of the resources that can be used to find help for those who are impacted by the opioid epidemic amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond.

Tiffany Liesmann, BCBSKS staff pharmacist

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