Overdose deaths reached record highs as the pandemic spread

“Many people die without knowing what they are consuming,” she added.

People who are struggling with addiction and those in recovery are prone to relapse. The initial pandemic shutdowns and subsequent flossing of social networks, along with the rise in mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, helped create a health maelstrom.

So did the postponement of treatment for substance abuse disorders, as healthcare providers across the country struggled to care for a large number of coronavirus patients and postponed other services.

Dr. Joseph Lee, president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, said community and social support lost during the pandemic, along with the closure of schools, contributed to increasing overdose deaths. “We see a lot of people who are late in getting help and who seem to be more ill,” said Dr. Lee.

The vast majority of these deaths, about 70 percent, were among men between the ages of 25 and 54. And while the opioid crisis has been characterized as one that primarily affects white Americans, an increasing number of black Americans have also been affected.

There were regional variations in the death toll, with the largest increases from year to year – over 50 percent – in California, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky. Vermont’s toll was small but increased by 85 percent during the reporting period.

Increases of about 40 percent or more were seen in Washington State, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Alaska, Nebraska, Virginia and the Carolinas. Deaths actually fell in New Hampshire, New Jersey and South Dakota.

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