With normal and healthy people turning to drugs to combat depression during the seemingly endless lockdowns caused by the pandemic, the number of deaths from drug overdose have soared to an all-time high according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC’s provisional data shows more than 81,230 people died from a drug overdose between June 1, 2019 and May 31, 2020, up 18 percent over the same period the year prior. The numbers dramatically increased between March and May 2020–the early months of recurring lockdowns.
“This represents a worsening of the drug overdose epidemic in the United States and is the largest number of drug overdoses for a 12-month period ever recorded,” a CDC spokesman stated.
Even those who are trying to clean their slate are affected by the shutdowns.
Matt Royce, 35, oversees seven sober-living homes in Minneapolis, each holding between 9 and 13 people. For nearly three years, there was not a single overdose death under his watch. That streak ended last summer when he lost two people and almost lost three others from overdoses with opioid-blocker Narcan.
Because of boredom, inability to see family and friends and lack of social activities, recovering addicts are struggling even more to stay clean.
“A lot of these guys, they just need the simple things in life. And when they’re prohibited from being able to get those things, it’s tough,” Royce said.
“Hopefully this changes sooner rather than later, because I can’t even tell you how many times I was dealing with relapses every single day of the week … heavily, heavily from June all the way until about October. It was non-stop. It was definitely more than normal, there’s no doubt about that.”
Royce had been in the same shoes before.
He started smoking pot at age 13, dabbled in “party drugs” such as cocaine and mushrooms until he finally discovered and used opioids. (Related: 12 Shocking Facts About the Dangers of Psychiatric Drugs.)
“I didn’t try drugs just for the fun of it. I tried drugs because I wanted to escape life. And even at 13 years old, I hated life,” he said.
At 21, an appendix surgery sent Royce into a 10-year spiral with prescription opioid painkillers.
He also thought death is a more favorable option than going through withdrawals.
“In my withdrawals, I would go into convulsions. I would literally shake nonstop until I was able to finally get my fix,” he said.
His father provided the jolt to awaken his senses.
“I’ll never forget that morning. My father knocked on the door and he said, ‘Either you get your [expletive] together right now, or I’m taking your kids and you’ll never see them again,’” Royce said. “And I believed my dad, because he’s not one to just say [expletive] and not do it.”
That morning, Royce started to turn his life around and never looked back. He was taken to a treatment center where he spent four days detoxing and three months in a residential treatment center.
Royce will be four years drug-free on Feb. 20.
Mental health, substance use disorders are two problems that go together
Mental health problems and substance use disorders are two different problems that sometimes occur together.
Some drugs can cause people with an addiction to experience one or more symptoms of a mental health problem while mental health problems can sometimes lead to alcohol or drug abuse.
Also, mental and substance use disorders can both cause changes in brain composition, genetic vulnerabilities and early exposure to stress or trauma.
People with a mental health problem and substance use disorder must treat both issues—not just one or the other. Treatment for both mental health problems and substance use disorders may include rehabilitation, medications, support groups and talk therapy.