Overdose deaths have accelerated in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic, US health officials said on Thursday, stressing the need to ensure access to essential medical services despite disruptions linked to COVID-19.
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More than 81,000 overdose deaths were recorded in the United States during the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a year in the country, according to the Centers for Prevention and of Disease Control (CDC).
And while those deaths have already been on the rise in the months leading up to the virus’ arrival in the United States, the most recent statistics suggest an acceleration during the pandemic, authorities say.
“The recent increase in drug overdose mortality began in 2019 and continued into 2020, before the declaration of the national COVID-19 emergency in the United States in March,” according to the CDC. But “increases in overdose deaths appear to have accelerated during” the epidemic.
“The disruption of daily life during the Covid-19 pandemic is hitting hard on those suffering from drug-related disorders,” Robert Redfield, director of CDC said in a statement.
Synthetic opiates, particularly illegally manufactured fentanyl, appear to be the number one cause of the increase in overdose deaths, authorities say.
Cocaine overdoses have also increased.
Health officials recommend expanding the distribution of naloxone (a drug used in opioid overdose) and expanding overdose prevention education.
It is also necessary, according to the CDC, “to intervene early with the individuals most at risk of overdose” and ensure that essential services remain accessible.