October 15, 2020

Opioid Trends in Mississippi, U.S. During the Pandemic

Financial worries, anxiety, isolation, grief, changes, pressures at home and work and an ongoing sense of uncertainty have become hallmarks of 2020. It’s been a tough year for most of us—and we’re probably not at our best in terms of mental or physical health. The stress and isolation have also increased substance use—or the pressure to use.

Coronavirus-related social distancing and quarantining have been especially difficult for individuals with a substance use disorder and those at risk of developing one. COVID-prevention measures have forced individuals in recovery into isolation, decreasing access to treatments and opportunities for distractions from their addictions.

So far, the sale of alcoholic beverages has risen by more than 25 percent. A recent analysis of half a million urine drug tests conducted from mid-March to May by Millenium Health, a national laboratory service, also showed worrying trends, such as a 32 percent increase in non-prescribed fentanyl, 20 percent increase in methamphetamine, and a 10 percent increase in cocaine in the period. According to a national tracking system from the University of Baltimore, suspected drug overdoses climbed a staggering 18 percent in the same period.

In August, the American Medical Association warned that more than 40 states reported increases in opioid-related mortality. For instance, from April through June of this year, the number of fentanyl overdose deaths has increased by 133 percent.

In Mississippi, the opioid crisis has placed an incredible strain on the already overburdened healthcare system. Since 2017, our state has been one of the top-five opioid prescribing states in the U.S. For every 100 individuals, 92.9 opioid prescriptions were written, compared to the national average of 58.7 prescriptions.

The progression from prescription opioids to the use of illicit drugs is well documented. As users have migrated to illicit and far less expensive opioids, such as heroin or fentanyl, overdoses have dramatically increased.

The spread of fentanyl is already unraveling years of effort aimed at reducing the number of overdose deaths. Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has stated that, “Practically all the progress we made has now been reversed. And this is even before the pandemic.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths jumped 5 percent in 2019, accounting for 72,000 American deaths. We’re now facing even greater numbers. Our Black and Latin communities, which often lack access to affordable healthcare and addiction treatment, are most vulnerable.

If you or a loved one needs help with a substance abuse disorder, Communicare is here for you. Take a look at our services and don’t hesitate to contact us!