Coronavirus could reverse progress made in US battling the opioid crisis, experts say
News Observer - April 28, 2020

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Coronavirus could reverse gains made in the fight against opioid addiction, health experts say.

Though self-quarantining can help stop the spread of COVID-19, it also carries potential setbacks for people who are addicted to powerful painkillers, the Associated Press and other news outlets report.

That’s because staying away from others has the potential to “disrupt access to syringe services, medications, and other support,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

HOW CAN ISOLATION IMPACT PEOPLE?

Coronavirus-related restrictions mean some people who battled drug addiction are away from their coworkers, loved ones and others in their support systems, sparking fears of relapse, according to the New York Post. Brian McCarthy, a former opioid user, told the newspaper staying inside his home won’t give him a chance to celebrate his sobriety with friends.

“I’ve seen this whole isolating thing and it is just, it’s toxic for us,” he told the New York Post. “I’m not going to get high over it.”

Being alone during the pandemic can also be dangerous those with opioid addictions because of the risk of overdose, according to National Geographic.

Coronavirus is spreading as the United States is starting to see a decline in fatal opioid overdoses, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 67,000 people died after taking opiods in 2018, down 4% from the year before, figures updated in March show.

People who take high amounts of opioids can face life-threatening complications if they get respiratory infections, such as COVID-19, according to the National Institutes of Health. Other potential risk during the pandemic include obstacles to receiving health care and living in situations that pose a risk for infection, officials say.

Now, some people are concerned life changes during the coronavirus pandemic could “fuel a new wave of addiction,” Politico reports.

“I think a lot of people are coping with drugs and alcohol,” Devin Reaves, executive director of the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Coalition, told the news outlet.

VIRTUAL TREATMENT OPTIONS

To help combat drug addiction, treatment centers are scrambling to offer support — from a distance, news outlets report. Someexperts argue online services aren’t as effective as what patients get in person, according to the New York Post and Politico.

But the option has worked for some people, with one California company having a higher rate of people sticking with virtual treatment, NPR reports.

“As an addict, it was easy to have excuses not to do stuff, but this was easy because I could just be in my living room and turn on my computer, so I had no reason to blow it off,” Nathan Post told the news outlet.

The U.S. government says it also has relaxed restrictions on medications used to treat opioid addiction.

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