The American Medical Association in its updated Issue Brief (October, 2020) shows how opioid addiction remains as imperative a challenge as the impact of the coronavirus. The report includes Pennsylvania among the 40 states that have “reported increases (around 18% – nearly a fifth) in opioid-related mortality, as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder.”
Stephen LaBar, Director of Operations at Peace Valley Recovery in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, provides in a report written for Thefix.com a review of this complex health problem, partly overshadowed by the COVID-19.
He said that only three years ago the highest peak in opioid-related fatal overdoses was taking place across the country. By that time U.S. citizens were dying at a rate of around 130 every single day.
The arrival of the pandemic has affected virtually every aspect of American life, and that also includes those suffering from opioid addiction.
In Beaver County, Pennsylvania, District Attorney David Lozier recently spoke about how his region is being affected by the virus in terms of the detrimental impact on people’s mental wellbeing, including rates of opioid use and addiction:
“COVID has sucked the wind out of every other issue. We’re seeing an increase in domestic violence, Childline and child abuse calls, a worsening mental health picture, and worsening drug and alcohol pictures. The people who need support services or who are in treatment. It’s all been by phone. They haven’t had the in-person contact they need.”
Clearly, the state of Pennsylvania was moving in the right direction when it came to accessing and providing opioid addiction treatment for opioid abusers and addicts. In fact, a rate of 65% is far, far higher than the national average for the numbers of drug addicts who make it into such treatment. In 2019, that national rate stood at a lowly 10-13%.
Fear of coronavirus
Just like any other U.S. industry, the addiction treatment field has been hit hard, with many rehab centers, including those in Pennsylvania, facing financial collapse if things don’t improve soon. Many treatment centers report clients not making their scheduled treatment appointments – either the simple fear of coronavirus infection, or, worryingly, because more and more of those in recovery are experiencing overdoses and relapses.
In an effort to meet the changing conditions, opioid addiction treatment centers have also had to invest in new “telemedicine” technology to be able to provide services, where clients receive counseling and other treatment via their computer screens.
Hope for opioid addiction
However, according to LaBar, there is a positive side concerning the opioid addiction problem.
More and more of Pennsylvania’s facilities and clinics are becoming accustomed to the necessary COVID-19 protocols and regulations required in running their treatment options, from residential care, to Partial-Hospitalization Programs (PHPs), Outpatient Programs, and their own counseling sessions and group support meetings.
Also, the use of Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT), such as the provision of methadone and other MAT drugs for opioid replacement, has had its own regulations relaxed, thus increasing its range of access to those who need it.