For almost two years, we have been watching closely as the world continues to count the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19. In Iowa, Illinois, the country and the world, all eyes have been on the health crisis we collectively face. Perhaps a hidden strength here is that at least we understand all the issues, and people from different communities can interact with each other as we work to find solutions that can help us win the fight.
I see parallels here with the opioid epidemic. While not a contagious virus, addiction continues to impact every community in the United States, regardless of race, gender, socio-economic background, etc. There are many approaches to tackling the opioid crisis, and some will work better in some areas than others. However, as with the coronavirus, sharing education and resources can help a community take action for a healthier future.
The CDC confirmed late last year that the United States was experiencing an acceleration in overdose deaths during the COVID-19 crisis, counting more deaths in a 12-month period than ever before. The Iowa and Illinois departments of public health have reported similar increases in opioid overdose deaths in consecutive years.
Often referred to as the ‘disease of isolation’, it is clear that people with substance use disorders have found it particularly difficult to adapt to public health guidelines that required us to stay on the sidelines. away from our friends and relatives. The support systems we rely on to help us through difficult times were not as readily available. The increased stress, anxiety and loneliness were contributing factors for many people who found themselves relapsing into unhealthy habits.