Did the Pandemic Make People Relapse on Opioids?

Relapse on Opioids

When the opioid crisis and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic come together, it creates a new set of healthcare difficulties. After comparing data received before and after the pandemic, a national clinical laboratory made significant findings regarding clinical drug testing patterns.

Drug Testing and Coronavirus Testing


Drug testing for prescription and illegal drugs fell hastily throughout the pandemic, with weekly test volumes dropping by nearly 70% from the baseline period to the trough (the week commencing March 29) before rebounding in consecutive weeks. During the pandemic, the proportion of people who tested positive for non-prescribed fentanyl grew by 35%, and heroin increased by 44%. Patients who tested positive for other drugs were more likely to test positive for non-prescribed fentanyl: 89 percent of specimens tested positive for amphetamines, 48 percent tested positive for benzodiazepines, 34 percent tested positive for cocaine, and 39 percent tested positive for opiates (all P values less than 0.05). 


According to this data, there has been a massive rise in the use of risky medication combinations. Compared to pre-pandemic trends, the likelihood of non-prescribed use of many other medications remained stable or even decreased for specific substances in some cases. The probability of non-prescribed fentanyl positive increased by more than 50% during the pandemic, according to models that took into account possible confounding factors like medication-assisted therapy and treatment in a drug use disorder facility, among other things. 


In summary, our data show that overall drug testing has reduced, with increasing positives for high-risk medications and potentially deadly drug combinations resulting from this decline. With the confluence of the drug misuse epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic comes an increasing need for healthcare and public health resources committed to assisting vulnerable patients and tackling the root causes of these alarming developments.


The Drug Relapse Epidemic


A total of more than 750,000 individuals died from a drug overdose in the United States between 1999 and 2018, with almost 450,000 fatalities involving opioids, whether prescribed or illegally obtained.


According to the most current annual figures, the overdose epidemic reached a high in 2017, with a total of 70,723 recorded fatalities, followed by a 4.6 percent decline in overdose deaths the following year. Even though general progress has been achieved, fentanyl-related fatalities have the potential to push the number of deaths from drug overdoses to sad new heights. Every month beginning at least January 2015 (5766) and continuing through December 2019, the 12-month rolling total of provisional overdose fatalities related to non-methadone synthetic opioids (presumable fentanyl) has grown by at least one (36,509). 


The coronavirus disease pandemic of 2019 (COVID-19) 


Another public health disaster, the COVID-19 pandemic (which was proclaimed a national emergency on March 13, 2020), has had a significant impact on everyday living in the United States in a variety of ways. Remain-at-home orders were issued in many states beginning in March, and by the end of April, virtually every state had issued a warning to its inhabitants to stay at home. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventative (CDC) also advocated delaying medical prevention procedures that could not be provided remotely to aid in preventing the spread of COVID-19.


Unfortunately, there has been a significant decrease in clinical drug testing (drug testing to determine compliance with prescription medications and/or usage of non-prescribed/illicit substances) due to these efforts. Although medical professionals, corporations, and government organizations have lobbied for mitigation measures, COVID-19 has spread swiftly throughout the United States, with more than 4.3 million confirmed cases resulting in more than 150,000 fatalities as of late July 2020.


Factors that Facilitated the Opioids Relapse During the Pandemic


Many things are responsible for the relapse of many on opioids during the Covid-19 pandemic. Let’s examine some of them below:


Hospitals Were Filled Up


The pandemic took its toll on many citizens, and lots of hospitals were filled up. Even correctional centers had to be converted to isolation centers too. Hence, patients in recovery were left with inadequate supervision.


Switch to Telemedicine


As an alternative to physical healthcare, telemedicine was introduced. However, this method took off a slow start and took a while for recovery patients to adjust. Hence, some have relapsed already. 

Relapse on Opioids

Mental Effect of the Pandemic


The pandemic took a heavy mental toll on a lot of people, including recovery patients. Stay-at-home orders and uncertainty of when everything would end spurred emotions like anxiety, depression which made some people relapse on opioids.

Cooccurring Covid-19 and Drug Addiction

During the COVID-19 epidemic, the number of fatal drug overdoses has climbed rapidly, with opioids accounting for two-thirds of all fatal overdoses. Overdose fatalities have increased by 81,000 over 12 months.


Based on a 30-day rolling mean comparison to the corresponding months in 2019, suspected overdose submissions to the Overdose Mapping Application Program (ODMAP) increased by 18 percent in March, 29 percent in April, and 42 percent in May 2020.


According to the ODMAP research, there would be an increase of 11.4 percent in fatal overdoses and a rise of 18.6 percent in nonfatal overdoses in 2020. An estimate by a study from the Well Being Trust and the American Academy of Family Physicians suggests that the economic slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would result in a significant rise in mortality from a drug overdose, alcohol misuse, and suicide in the following years.


Getting Treatment for Opioid Addiction in Southern California


Estimates of extra fatalities from these causes over the following ten years vary depending on the course of the pandemic and the response, with the most probable outcome being 75,000 additional deaths over the next ten years. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, experts looked at how changes in clinical drug testing results in the United States interacted with the drug epidemic. They found that the results of clinical drug testing in the United States changed significantly during the pandemic.


If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction fueled by the covid-19 pandemic, contact Opus Health at 855-953-1345 to discuss treatment options in Orange County California.

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