According to an analysis of statistics by NJ Spotlight, New Jersey could be on track to end 2020 with a record number of drug- and alcohol-related fatalities. The increase in addiction and overdose seems to be related to the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, with stress from isolation and the virus itself adding to the pressures of addiction and making it harder to get help. By July, overdose rates had risen 17% compared to last year. Between January and the end of June, nearly 1,600 New Jersey residents lost their lives to the disease of addiction.
Sadly, these statistics prevail despite an uptick in demand for addiction treatment early in the pandemic. While some providers were able to expand services, many treatment centers were limited by the crisis.
More ‘Idle Hours’
Research has long shown correspondence between unemployment, economic downturn, and social upheaval and increasing rates of drug and alcohol use and addiction. Those in recovery explain:
“For people with addictions, your idle hours are the worst.”
COVID-19 has created an unprecedented number of idle hours. Not only were nearly 30 million Americans laid off or furloughed from their jobs, but the majority of both employed and unemployed Americans were also encouraged to stop socializing and “shelter in place.”
Expanding Access to Treatment
As the pandemic rages on, expanding access to treatment is crucial. Fortunately, telehealth is on the rise and providers are adapting to accommodate socially distanced treatment centers. The Department of Human Services (DHS) also committed $25 million in federal funds to help treatment providers cover coronavirus-related costs and made regulatory changes to improve access to care.
In conjunction with DHS, some local pharmacies will also be offering free doses of naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also committed $7.1 million to fund various efforts to reduce overdose deaths in New Jersey.
The state Department of Health Commissioner made the following statement when the funding was announced on August 31, 2020:
“This funding comes at a critical time as we are concerned about an increase in overdose deaths that have occurred this spring.”
Two Public Health Crises
The Commissioner also pointed out that though the COVID-19 pandemic has been dominating news coverage, the opioid epidemic has not gone away.
In New Jersey, rising rates of unemployment and overdose mean the state could lose a total of 3,200 people by the end of December. This would represent the highest annual total of overdoses in at least 8 years.
Nationwide, overdoses have risen by 13% in the first 6 months of 2020, and rates have jumped as high as 60% in places hit hardest by the opioid epidemic. Due to COVID-19, mental health and addiction experts say, “people have met their tipping point.” Individuals may start using drugs and alcohol to escape from pandemic- and economic-related stress and end up as some of the most troubling statistics our nation has seen in years.
Meeting the Demand
As addiction and overdose increase, providers must step up and find new ways to meet the demand for services. Using telehealth, expanding staff, and implementing strict COVID-19 protocol can help treatment centers provide for a “new population with new needs.”
The best providers find what works best for each client and administer treatment accordingly.
As leaders in addiction treatment, Turning Point continues to operate, offering detoxification, as well as inpatient and outpatient care. We adhere to a multi-pronged systematic approach in managing COVID-19, and our clients’ safety remains our utmost priority.
We have been providing treatment in New Jersey since 1975, and we will continue to be available for all. By helping more than 3,700 people every year, we keep individuals from becoming statistics.
Make today your Turning Point by calling us at (973) 380-0905 today. You can also seek the treatment you need by sending us a message online.