Could 'Deaths of Despair' Outweigh COVID-19 Fatalities?

While the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has claimed 80,653 lives at the time of writing, addiction and mental illness triggered by the pandemic could claim even more. According to USA Today, a new study from the Well Being Trust and the American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that deaths from alcohol, drug overdose, and suicide could reach 150,000, depending on economic recovery times.

The head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, explains:

We see very troubling signs across the nation. There's more substance abuse, more overdoses, more domestic violence and neglect and abuse of children.”

McCance-Katz urges the nation to prepare for an increased need for mental health and addiction treatment, which was already in short supply before the pandemic began. The study she cites calls the anticipated fatalities “deaths of despair,” and predicts about 154,037 of them if the economic recovery is slow. A psychologist from the Well Being Trust stated:

We already had a major problem on our hands. Now people are disconnected and lonely with a level of uncertainty, fear, and dread.”

Addiction Comes to the Surface

For many sheltering in place, addiction is coming to the forefront of their minds for the first time. People with alcohol use disorders may be confronted with the depths of their problem now that they do not have a job or other activities to help them self-regulate. As a result, more people are seeking alcohol addiction treatment in the Northeast and other areas hit hard by COVID-19.

Similarly, parents are realizing how many of their teenagers suffer from substance use disorder and worry their kids will be infected when they sneak out to buy drugs. One mother tells a harrowing story of her daughter threatening to kill herself if her mother did not buy her heroin. The mother complied, but quickly enrolled her daughter in an inpatient recovery program. Other parents of teens in rehab have similar stories of their kids “drinking everything in the house” or inhaling aerosol cleaners.

Across the nation, admission to recovery programs has continued, and virtual outpatient treatment has increased dramatically.

Nevertheless, even those who have been in recovery for years are struggling to stay sober.

Investing In Recovery

SAMHSA received $425 million from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act to boost mental health and addiction services. Meanwhile, hospitals received $100 billion in aid.

The Well Being Trust psychologist added:

It’s embarrassing the lack of attention our Congress places on mental health in a crisis.”

Although the resources SAMHSA received are not nearly enough, McCance-Katz has put them to use, establishing Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics across the country. These clinics offer mental health and addiction treatment, as well as crisis intervention services that can keep people out of emergency rooms.

Additionally, nonprofit recovery centers like Turning Point remain open.

Make Today Your Turning Point

If the issues we’ve discussed in this blog feel familiar to you, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

Our drug and alcohol rehab center helps more than 3,700 people every year, and we can help you, too. We offer several different treatment programs at treatment facilities across New Jersey.

Whether you are dealing with drug and/or alcohol addiction or a co-occurring disorder, we can develop a customized care plan to help you get back on the road to recovery.

Change is possible, and it’s waiting for you at Turning Point.

All you need to do is call us at (973) 380-0905 or contact us online today.

Special Notes

  • If you are experiencing a medical emergency or your life is at risk, call 911.

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